Lamb has been an important ingredient in Alentejo recipes since the time of Moorish rule on the Iberian Peninsula. Traces of Arab cuisine are pervasive throughout Alentejo cooking and if we take a look at the vast documentation that has so fortunately been preserved from that era, we find that lamb played as much of a leading role then as it continues to do today.

The breed of lamb found in North-east Alentejo is the Regional White Merino, which stands out from its cousins from the more southerly plains as a result of the landscape in which it is reared and fed – rich and abundant natural pastures with great plant diversity, complemented with acorns and wheat stubble. The meat of the North-east Lamb is tender and succulent with a smooth texture and moderate level of intra-muscular fat, giving it a characteristic, delicate and complex flavour.

All these virtues are extolled through the varied and rich dishes that have been created over the years to pay homage to its greatness: the ensopados (stews), sarapatel (offal stew) or offal soup, the stew with chick peas or the fascinating ratatau (cooked in wine). As in most cases, the lamb is prepared by taking advantage of oven heat after bread baking, always using high quality regional clay dishes. Of all the lamb recipes, oven roast may well be considered the most emblematic.

This is an extraordinary interpretation by Chef José Júlio Vintém, who lifts the traditional version to the heights of haute cuisine.

Chef André Magalhães