January is the ideal time to appreciate the Algarve during one of its quieter months, where we make the most of the hidden gems this beautiful destination has to offer. There’s no better way to spend the cooler Portuguese days than exploring the famous markets in the Algarve. From artisan to antique, the markets are the ideal opportunity to brush up on the local language whilst learning about some of the Algarve’s customs.

Local markets still happen every week and are surprisingly busy, with the town of Tavira famous for its antiques market where I love searching for hidden treasures. This beautifully elegant town is located on the eastern side of the Algarve about 30 minutes from Faro.

Between 8th and 13th century Tavira was under Arab rule, it was elevated to a city in 1520 by King Manuel the first and then became the main trading port in the Algarve during the 16-18th centuries. The famous seven-arch bridge over the river Gilao is reputedly Roman. Since severe floods affected the bridge it is only open to pedestrians which makes for a peaceful saunter from one side to the other where there are many river front cafes, restaurants and shops to enjoy.

The beach in Tavira is a fabulous sandy island called Ilha de Tavira where ferries cross from the town centre throughout the summer and all year round from Quatro Aguas. There is a camping site here but everything has to be transported by foot as cars are not permitted on this 14km long sand pit.

Keep your eyes peeled for more on this from our blogs in the coming months!

With a few little gems collected from the market in Tavira, I set off for Loule market to see what my friends Rob and Lucy were up to! They moved to the Algarve some years ago and live in a little village in the hills called Alte where they have a chilli farm. They were keen to start a small business and quickly came up with the idea of making local products using chillies and chocolate fudge!

Their market stall is called FUDGE and MORE (44-45) and they now also have a little shop in the pedestrian cobbled area of Loule where Rob makes his fudge and little chocolate cups on a daily basis to keep up with demand. They produce six varieties of rich, smooth and decadent chocolate fudge – tawny port, café creme, salted caramel, chilli and sea salt, Irish crème mint, chilli lime and coconut. All products are sold in small blocks for 2.50 euros – the biggest problem I had was knowing which one to choose!

As well as the delicious fudge they produce bottles of piri piri sauce and oils, packets of ground piri piri, sweet smoked paprika and saffron from Spain, paella mix and herb and piri piri kits where all you have to do is add your own oil!

This oil is particularly good when rubbed over a whole chicken with a bit of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon and simply roast in the oven – it’s absolutely delicious!

Also available are little packets of Flor de Sal, which is a speciality here as it is produced on the salt flats near the Ria Formosa.  Distinct local flavours have been cleverly added such as wild rosemary from the hills in Alte, fennel (great for fish dishes) and of course piri piri.

For those of you who enjoy a slice of toast in the morning there’s also jars of delicious lemon curd and lemon marmalade. Or for cooking tagines there’s jars of wonderfully preserved lemons too.

All these delicious locally sourced products are available in handy sized bottles, so you can experience all of the fantastic flavours of Portugal with your holiday cooking and BBQs.

For anybody visiting this lovely stall packed full of culinary delights, don’t forget to mention The Real Algarve blog and you’ll be treated to a small gift from Rob and Lucy as part of your visit.

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