Their wedding day in Chelb was celebrated with music, dancing and food for many days and nights. But some time later, the beautiful princess stopped smiling and fell ill for no apparent reason.

Ibn-Almundin consulted magicians and wise men from all over the world, but none could find a cure for her sadness. Then a poet from a northern country, suffering from nostalgia for the winter landscape of his homeland, suggested that the ruler plant almond trees all over his kingdom and wait for them to bloom.

And so it was that the beautiful princess from the north woke up one day to see most of the Al-Gharb countryside covered in fragile white and pink almond blossoms, resembling the snow of her homeland. These spectacular vistas still stun late winter and early spring visitors to Portugal.

Almond Picking

When the petals fall, the almonds grow. Initially coated in a velvety green skin, which eventually hardens and peels off revealing a harder brown shell, they are ready to harvest by late summer.

The traditional way of picking almonds in Portugal is by laying a big net or sheet on the ground underneath the almond tree and hitting the branches with a long pole, causing the almonds to fall onto the net.

After collecting them, they are dried in the sun for a few days before they’re ready to be cracked open to separate the edible fruit from the outer shell.

In years gone by, whole families typically undertook this fairly laborious process together, with grannies and grandchildren sitting on benches outside their homes cracking the nuts open. Today a machine is typically used.

Almonds are delicious eaten raw or roasted with a little salt and piri-piri, transformed into the local liqueur Amarguinha, and in other regional delicacies.

Make Arrepiados

Translated as goose bumps, this regional Algarvian delicacy is made from almond paste moulded into rough shaped cookies with peaks, resembling goose bumps! Here’s AB Villa Rental’s version.

Makes 20 cookies

  • 2 egg whites
  • 260gr sugar
  • 300gr skin-on almonds
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 20 whole peeled almonds for decoration

Grind the almonds coarsely with the skin (don’t allow them to turn into powder). Add the sugar, egg whites and lemon rind, mixing all the ingredients together.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of dough approximately 3cm apart. Alternately, you can shape small balls of dough with your hand and flatten them slightly. Garnish each cookie with a peeled almond, pressing down a little so that it sticks to the paste.

Bake at 160°C on the middle shelf for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies turn golden (do not overcook them or they will be too dry). Remove the tray from the oven, let it cool slightly and carefully remove from the parchment paper.

Relish Portugal celebrates our love affair with Portugal in the first issue of 2022, Jan/Feb/Mar, and just in time for Valentine’s Day. This free-with-subscription English-language food and culture magazine for Portugal lovers everywhere is a gorgeous award-winning, quarterly, online publication. Sign up and relish the bounty of riches that is Portugal:

Contributed by Evanne Schmarder/Relish Portugal Magazine in partnership with AB Villa Rentals (