The three-year-old colt galloped jauntily around the indoor practice arena at Portugal’s Monte Negro Stud Farm, mane and tail dancing in the breeze, jet black coat gleaming.
Tossing his head up and down, he nickered as he passed the spectators, just as a child would say, “Watch me! See what I can do!”
The beautiful landscape turned from green to gold as we left the countryside of Huelva province Spain and entered the Alentejo region of southern Portugal.
From our motor coach, we saw vast wheat fields, punctuated here and there by cork and olive tree forests. Trafalgar Tours introduction to Portugal took us to Monte Negro Stud Farm for a special Be My Guest lunch with traditional home-cooked food and stunning equine entertainment.
Monte Negro (Black Mountain) Stud Farm sits elevated above a dazzling panoramic countryside. As our coach pulled into the driveway, we could see herds of horses grazing and galloping in distant fields.
Our hostess, Vera Vieira De Almeida greeted us as we disembarked and led us into the horse stables where she shared the fascinating history of the farm.
As she talked, it was difficult to keep our eyes off the magnificent horses in the stalls, standing 15 to 16 hands high and eyeing us through the bars at the top of the stall doors. An incredibly beautiful white stallion bit at the iron bars of his stall and stared back at us with his large translucent pale blue eyes.
These majestic Lusitano horses originated in Portugal and were prized throughout history for their powerful physique, incredible agility, and keen intelligence. Their DNA dates back hundreds of years to a time when their powerful line was bred for military duty and was the favor of royalty.
Today, these same characteristics make them a favorite at competitions where they excel at dressage, the highest form of horse training. Horses trained at Monte Negro Stud Farm continue to win national and international competitions.
The story goes that in 1778 Carlos I, King of Portugal, tasked the Grandfather of Jacinto Paes Falcao, ancestor of the current owners of Monte Negro, to breed powerful Lusitano horses for military duty.
Jacinto’s Grandfather painted everything black and bred only black horses, unusual in a landscape of whitewashed farm structures. It was because he fell hopelessly in love with the beautiful Queen Consort, Amélie of Orléans, that he expressed his sadness in the color black, an authentic love story.
Today, Monte Negro Stud farm raises and trains champion Lusitano horses from the same gene pool of their magnificent past and the farm is a stunning understatement of elegant beauty.
After the introduction, Vera escorted us to the arena, where one horse after another sprinted in to display their talents and personality.
After the playful black colt entertained and excited the guests, the magnificent white stallion Fandi, the one with beautiful blue eyes, entered the arena and pawed a cool spot in the dirt where he rolled gleefully on his back. Then a trainer mounted on a black stallion entered the arena to demonstrate the horse’s response to the training. They circled the arena, bowed to the audience, circled again and returned for photographs with the guests.
While Vera, Tiago, and Manuel showed off the horses, Paula was overseeing the preparation of lunch and soon we found our places at tables in the elegant hacienda.
Olive oil is a key ingredient of healthy and delicious Portuguese cooking.
Paula’s delicious recipes are shared below. These recipes fed 29 guests! Adjust for quantity and convert from grams to ounces if needed. No doubt, you’ll enjoy these wonderful traditional Portuguese recipes as much as we did!
100g roasted almonds
3 table spoons of olive oil
Roast the almonds. Slice all vegetables into pieces and cook them in water. Add olive oil and salt at the end. Blend the soup with a hand blender. Add the roasted almonds before serving.
150g Bacon (pork or turkey)
1kg chicken cut in pieces
2 table spoons olive oil
1 table spoon mustard
1 coffee spoon black pepper
Put the olive oil and bacon in a large pot and add the chicken. Then add the leek and zucchini. Cook over a slow fire. Add the cream and salt at the end.
100ml olive oil
Caramel: 250g sugar and a bit of water till the sugar gets caramelized.
Mix all the pudding ingredients and pour into a mold which has been covered with the caramel. Put into a preheated oven at 180 C for 40 minutes.
200g black olives
90g Olive oil (recipe says 900g, I believe it must be 90g, anyway add oil according to your preferences.)
1 spoon cumin
1 spoon sweet red paprika powder
3 cloves of garlic
Sauce: mix the oil with the cumin, red paprika powder and the vinegar
Cook the carrots in water. Afterwards cut the carrots into dices and add the chopped garlic. Add the sauce, olives, and coriander to taste.
Thanks to Vera, Tiago, Paula, and Manuel for their warm hospitality at Monte Negro Stud Farm and for sharing some of the beautiful pictures of their horses, taken by Tony Stromberg, Fine Art Equine Photography (tonystromberg.com).
Obrigado especial (Special thank you) to Vera Vieira de Almeida for editing this article for authenticity.