British Food In Portugal

What do you miss when it comes to your food shopping?

For most people, the food that is available in the supermarkets, weekly markets and local shops is sufficient for everyday living. But now and again we like to indulge ourselves with a little something that is particularly British that generally can’t be bought locally

Here are a few ideas and possibly a few alternatives that don’t quite compensate but offer a good alternative. There is nothing like the real thing, however.

Bisto/OXO – If you cook meat well and collect the juices you can Bistoalways make good gravy. But if you want a quick fix for the “meat pastie thing” you bought from Modelo it would just be nice to have some instant gravy or OXO kicking around. Knorr does actually do a stock block over here but you can’t beat Bisto or OXO.

Cheddar Cheese – The stronger the better (otherwise what’s the point). A reasonable alternative to making the roof of your mouth tingle is to look for a good Azores cheese

Crackers – Not the ones to pull but ones to put your cheese on such as Hovis or cheese thins or sesame seed things. You can buy TUCs here and digestives (although not quite the same.)

Cadbury’s Chocolate – You can still buy Cadbury’s and Nestle in Portugal but here it is different because it needs to stay solid in warmer temperatures. This seems to give it a creamier, thicker texture and also lasts longer in the mouth.

Crisps – What can compare to a KP disco or a Hula Hoop or any of the multitude of Walkers’ flavours. Over here, look out for some of the Lay’s specialities or even the Heinz Tomato Sauce flavour crisps.

Baked Beans – HP, Heinz, Branston or even own brand baked beans. They are something unique to the UK. Holiday makers flock to a restaurant that has them on the menu. In Portugal we have more varieties of beans. Try taking a jar of Feijao Manteiga, Feijao Alubia or Garbanzos and adding polpa da tomate, sugar and salt and make your own. Shortly we will have our Branston Pickleown recipe for baked beans on the website.

Branston Pickle – Unique, even in the UK. Many UK supermarkets copy but none seem to achieve the same result.

Sliced Bread – Hovis , Kingsmill, Warburtons or others. Portuguese bread just doesn’t toast right and it dries out quickly. The selection of buns and baps is great but it just doesn’t slice with best of them. If you want something close, try Mini Preco’s “Reva Extra Fofo Sandwich”; not perfect but it makes pretty good toast.

Real Ale – What can I say? You can’t always get Real Ale in the UK but at least you can buy bitter which is completely different from any of the Portuguese beers. Super Bock do a label called Bohemia which is a dark beer but I’m afraid you won’t get a head like a Marstons Pedigree or a Boddingtons.

Sausages, Bacon and Ham – Portugal have a huge pork industry but it is unlikely that you will find anyone that makes a decent sausage. Curing the bacons and hams also only seems to done by English Butchers that work out here. You can get a presunto-type bacon here but don’t fry it too long as you will end up with crispy bacon fries!!

Black Pudding – Quintessentially Unique. The important factor in Black Pudding is that it has no big lumps of fat or gristle. In the UK there are very few varieties of black pudding; in Portugal there are hundreds!! But there is one major difference and that is that most Portuguese Black Puddings are very chewy and contain big lumps of fat. If you are looking for an equal to the UK, try anything containing Flour (farinha) or Rice (Arroz) as these tend to have a lower fat content.

Salad Crème – Essentially mayonnaise with vinegar but you try and recreate it.!

Spam – You can buy luncheon meat in certain supermarkets but HP sauceSpam has a certain taste and texture and it fries much better!

HP Sauce – Or any brown sauce. Mayonnaise, Tomato sauce and squeezy mustard are about the extent of Portugal sauces but sometimes you just need “Brown”

Malt Vinegar – White wine vinegar will do for most things but when you are pickling your onions or seasoning your fish and chips, you can’t beat a dash of Sarsons to improve the meal.

Chocolate Hobnobs – Ultimate biscuit! A mega-digestive with texture, flavour and chocolate. Need I say more!!

I am sure your mouth started watering before you even got half way through the article. I had to stop 3 times for snacks – mostly salt and vinegar hula hoops dipped in salad cream.

If you need to buy any of these products have a look in our Business Directory in Food & Drink Retailers for your local stockists.

If there is something you think I have missed, drop me a line and I can drool as I add it. All donations gratefully accepted.

Prepare for Autumn Rain

Early Autumn is the time to prepare for the rains in central Portugal.

The problem with rain is that it comes down so heavily in the autumn that it can take us by surprise, it can completely swamp a garden, and even destroys newly made lawns or beds. Spring rains are generally lighter and follow a wet winter, but autumn rains are often very heavy and thundery.

I remember standing outside my kitchen a couple of years ago during a heavy storm, watching our Autumn rain in central Portugalgravel path being washed away by the river of water, it gouged out the earth underneath and left some areas of the garden with trenches up to 5cm deep, all in just 30 minutes. The rains usually start at the beginning of October, so it is a good idea to be prepared for them.

If you have a new garden, or have recently made changes to the garden, try to imagine what will happen in a heavy downpour. Most Portuguese houses do not have roof gutters, so the rain pours down onto the paths, then races away downhill. The earlier you catch the water the better. Controlled drainage is the key. In more temperate climates, like the UK, a large amount of the water will soaks into the soil before it does any harm. However in Portugal at the end of summer, the ground is bone dry, especially if it is the notorious red clay that is common in central Portugal, and it will absorb virtually no water at all during the first heavy rains.

If you haven’t yet experienced a good Portuguese drenching, then don’t underestimate the enormous power of the rain water and the damage it can do to a garden. Keeping the grass slightly longer in October will help slow down the water when it reaches the lawn. It is surprising how quickly a village stream or river can fill up when the rains start.

It is important to keep road gutters and edges clear of leaves to help the water to flow away and to prevent the leaves being washed into the drains. We can all do our bit by keeping the roadways outside our own houses free of fallen leaves, as unfortunately autumn brings lots of them at the same time as the rains! The arrival of the autumn rains after a long, hot summer can cause problems but is also a blessing to many gardeners in central Portugal. Farmers will now start preparing the ground for sowing winter crops and the non-irrigated areas of the garden finally get a drenching.

You have time to consider collecting the rainwater for use on the garden when it starts to dry out. There are many ways to do this from plastic tubs under down spouts and drain pipes to concrete water tanks. If you need help sourcing materials or you need advice you will find help in our Business Directory pages.

Grassing on the Lawns!

Here is a collation of information for looking after your lawn in the challenging Portugal climate.

We all like our green lawns. Whether you water your lawns throughout the hot months of the summer to keep your lawns green or let them go dry, this is the time of year to make sure we keep our lawns green, for at least some part of the year!

Scarifying, aeration and top dressing are words we have all come across before and this is the time of year to do it.

Scarifying: removing dead growth lawn2

Use a fan shaped rake to give air for the healthy grass to grow. If your lawn is very dry, scarify when dry and lightly scarify again when the first rain comes and you see the new, strong grass shoots coming through.

If you have moss in your lawn then a moss weed killer needs to be used a couple of weeks before scarifying so you are raking out dead moss.

Aeration: Putting air into your soil

Aeration is done by forking all of your lawn, making small holes in the ground 10cm deep, moving the fork when in the ground to disturb the soil underneath, every 15 cm apart. A thankless task but very necessary and helps drainage and root growth.

Top Dressing

Mix together top soil, sharp sand and a little amount of compost. Scatter the mix with your spade over all the lawn. Using a rake, flat side down, work the top dressing into your lawn.

Damaged Lawns

I have used the top dressing method on damaged areas, after clearing the dead grass and raked the bare soil, I have mixed grass seed with soil and some compost and scattered this over the damaged area, using a stiff brush to make sure the mixture gets in between any good grass. This method can achieve reasonable results.

Another suggestion is to cut out the damaged area of turf in a square and lightly fork over the soil in the base of the removed square. Sprinkle some crumbly top soil or compost over the base of the removed square and scatter the grass seed over the area at a rate of 15-25g per sq m (½–¾oz per sq yard) if no sowing rate is given on the packet or by the supplier. Cover the seed with a light sprinkling of top soil or compost to hide it from the birds and water in with a watering can fitted with a fine rose.

Repairing lawn edges lawn1

Dig out a square of the damaged lawn. Turn the damaged square through 180° and replace it so that the cut edge aligns with the lawn edge and the damaged edge is facing inwards and make good if needed as you would for a damaged lawn (above).


Mow mainly in Spring and Autumn, when the rains start the grass grows fast, and occasionally in the summer months. You should not mow between February and April, as this is usually a dormant period and never when there is frost. Mowing height is an important factor in keeping a good lawn. For early spring mowing set the cutting height on your lawn mower at its highest setting. Gradually reduce the height until you have reached your desired grass height. Avoiding close mowing which can damage a lawn.

Care for lawns during drought

Mowing – Raise the height of the cut in dry weather to avoid weakening the grasses and let the clippings fall back onto the lawn rather than collecting them so they act as a mulch.

Water your lawn in the evening or early morning or with sprinklers through the night.

If you follow this advice then lunch on the lawn next summer just may be a possibility.

The Pillory Of Tomar

Pillories are stone columns, although some were made of wood, placed in a public place, in a city or village, where the criminals were tortured and publicly humiliated. In Portugal, the pillories of the municipality were located in front the City or Town Hall from the 12th century onwards. Many had on the side a small cage-shaped hut, with iron bars, where offenders were exposed as a form of public shame. These kinds of pillories usually consisted of a base, on which a column or shaft rested, and ended in a capital. Some of them were extremely adorned and served as a symbol of the power of judicial authorities. Its presence was intended to serve as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.

The pillory of Tomar was built in the 18th century,pillory in the now Praça da República. In 1940 it was taken for restoration and, once restored, it was placed in the Largo do Pelourinho. Before this one, two others existed:

The first one on the old Chão do Pombal, at the time of the Knights Templar, and the second one was built later in front of Largo Paços de D. Manuel (presently, Praça da República), in the 16th century, and it has been replaced by the present pillory.

The parts of the Pillory of Tomar

The pillory is made of limestone. As far as the base of the column is concerned, the prismatic part is square-shaped, with bevelled angles and frame in each of the concave sides. The superior side is also bevelled, to reduce the support base of the column. It’s shaft is a pyramidal block emerging from its small base, becoming round-shaped in the middle and then it starts to get thinner all the way to the capital, which is marked by an angular frame on each side. Its sides and angles are well decorated with natural elements. From the top of the pyramidal block, and crowning the monument, rises an iron armillary sphere. The armillary sphere became a common motif during the Age Of Discoveries and it is present in many Manueline styled monuments.

The Manueline style, also known as the Portuguese late Gothic, is an architectural and sculptural art style developed during the reign of King Manuel I and which continued after his death. This style incorporates sea elements and representations of the Discoveries brought from the voyages made by Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. The Manueline style emerged during a prosperous and glorious period in the history of Portugal, and its presence can be seen in several monuments all over the country.

Summer showers ahead?

The mercury is set to dip slightly over coming days and showers, heavier towards the south, will be in place for much of the country for most of the coming week.

Lisbon: A pleasant and warm Saturday will give way to a cooler Sunday, at around 25 degrees Celsius, and Lisbon could see a few showers around, being heavier on Sunday and gradually easing up as the new week progresses.

The South: Southern Portugal will enjoy a warm if slightly cloudy weekend, with temperatures at around 28 degrees Celsius, before heavy showers move in on Monday and spots of rain lasting until the middle of next week.

The North: The north will be partly cloudy for most of the weekend and cooler than the rest of the country, at around 22 degrees. Rain will fall on Monday and Tuesday, becoming lighter towards Friday.

The Role Pets Play in Managing Our Mental Health

Taking care of a pet can often feel like a full-time job, but have you ever stopped to think about how they also take care of us?

According to a new study, our pets serve to comfort us when we need it the most, especially for people with mental illnesses. When asked what helped them manage their condition, many people said their pets helped the most.

“Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family,” said Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and lead author of the study, to NPR.

The researchers interviewed 54 people with serious long-term mental illnesses. Of the group, 25 of the participants considered their pets part of their social network.

“When I’m feeling really low they are wonderful because they won’t leave my side for two days,” said one study participant with two dogs and two cats. “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

The participants were asked who they went to for help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement, and how they spent their days. They were then given a diagram to complete. The diagram had three consecutive circles surrounding a square in the middle to represent the participant.

They were asked to write the people, places and things that gave them support into the circles, with the circles closest to the center being the most important. Sixty percent of people placed their pets in the central circle, next to family.

“I think it’s really hard when you haven’t had a mental illness to know what the actual experience is [like],” said one participant. “There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us … [Other people are] on one side of it, and we’re on the other side of it. We’re sending smoke signals to each other to try and understand each other but we don’t always — we don’t always understand.”

Brooks said many individuals with mental illness find themselves isolated. They start to see less of their friends and pets can give affection without understanding the disorder, she said.

“[Pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms,” said one participant. “They don’t question where you’ve been.”

In addition to providing emotional support and closeness, the participants also said their animals distract them from their illness. One participant placed his pet birds in his closest social circle.

“They help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing,” the participant said.

Mark Longsjo, program director of adult services at McLean Southeast, an inpatient mental facility in Middleborough, Massachusetts, said the participant interviews reflect his professional experiences.

“I think there’s significant value in considering the common everyday pet to be as important as the relationships one has with one’s family in the course of their treatment,” he said.

The pets also keep people from withdrawing from the world. One participant said their cats keep them involved, while another said getting out of the house to walk the dog helps.

“That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him,” the participant said. “I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”

What You Need to Know about Sargassum Invading the Caribbean

There has been a lot of discussion and concern about the invasion of seagrass we have had in Mahahual and throughout the Caribbean this year. It has really effected tourism and caused problems on the beaches this year. I came across this article today from Barbados, and I thought I would share. To me it is the best explanation and insight into this problem that I have come across. It is written by an official of the Barbados government.

Peter Gregory Sargeant GSM HST (MAN OF GOD)
Public Relations Officer at The Asthma Association Of Barbados

A strange phenomenon occurred in the Caribbean in 2011. A massive tide of sargassum, brown invasive algae, washed on to the shores of the region’s popular beaches. A similar event is occurring today. Tourism officials are disgruntled by the masses of smelly brown seaweed that are inundating coastlines. Although seaweed is normally seen as a nuisance for local residents and travelers, it does offer some ecological benefits. Plus, sargassum is only temporary and it’s fairly unpredictable, so don’t let its presence in the Caribbean affect your travel plans. Here’s what you need to know about sargassum in the Caribbean.

1. Where Does Sargassum Come From?

The algae originates in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda. The Atlantic is home to two species (S. natans and S. fluitans) which reproduce vegetatively and travel on the ocean’s surface. These two species are also found throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, transported by the Gulf Stream.

2. What Causes Sargassum Invasions?

An explanation for the sudden invasion of tons of algae on Caribbean shores is changing weather patterns and creating warmer temperatures in the region. According to one marine biologist, cooler autumn weather traditionally slows the algae’s growth, plus changes ocean circulation patterns, water temperature and nutrient systems and “typically keep the weed at sea.” As the sea temperature increases, sargasssum is more likely to make its way to the shores of Caribbean beaches.

3. Inhabits All of the World’s Oceans Except…

The Arctic. Sargassum can be found floating on the surface of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, but you will not see the brown algae in the world’s most southern body of water.

4. Sargassum’s Healing Powers

The brown algae has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since the eighth century. Sargassum seaweed is a source of iodine used to treat goiters, thyroid disorders, and as a diuretic. It also treats pain from hernias and swollen testes.

5. Sargassum’s Great for Soil

In Tobago, the government has been encouraging farmers to use it as fertilizer. Sargassum is full of nutrients and carbon, making it an excellent natural manure for farmers in the region. Sargassum is also an excellent fertilizer for worn beaches.

6. The Turtles Love It

When sargassum is traveling in the ocean, it acts as both a shelter and food source for turtle hatchlings who are not strong swimmers yet. Green sea turtles will eat large amounts of sargassum throughout their lifetimes. Besides sea turtles, this floating habitat provides food, refuge and breeding grounds for an array of other sea life including crabs, shrimp, mahi mahi, jacks, and amberjacks.

7. Sargassum Protects the Beachfront

The algae serves as buffer on the beach by reducing wave and wind erosion. It also protects the sand in dunes, making them more resilient. Less erosion means more sand on the beaches to structurally support beachfront properties and for people to play in.

8. Food for the Birds

When the sargassum and all of the organisms living within the masses of seaweed wash ashore, it provides food for pelagic seabirds and pelicans.

9. When Sargassum Sinks

Berry-like gas-filled structures, called pneumatocysts, make up the plant. These “berries,” which are filled mostly with oxygen, cause the algae to float. When sargassum loses its buoyancy, it sinks to the seafloor, providing energy in the form of carbon and also food sources to fishes and invertebrates in the deep sea.

10. What’s Next?

Many are wondering if the invasion of sargassum in the Caribbean will be a cyclical occurrence. Marine biologists note that as weather patterns, temperatures and wind speeds change within the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, sargassum can be expected. Biologists are working hard to understand the source and patterns of sargassum. You can visit the Sargasso Sea Commission website for updated information.

Bianca Animal Shelter

Bianca Animal Shelter is a private Portuguese association, a registereBianca Animal Shelterd charity with a public utility status, whose objective is to rescue dogs and cats and to rehome them to good homes.

Bianca runs a shelter for around 250 dogs and has 50 cats in “temporary families”. The shelter is in Sesimbra – a coastal city 30 km south of Lisbon.

Bianca receives around 30 new animals every month. It is always a struggle to keep a reasonable number of them in the shelter and to be able to rehome as many as possible every month.

Many animals that we receive are in a very bad state: after an accident, with broken bones and wounds, puppies and kittens found dehydrated in garbage bins, animals physically abused. We count with the help of the vets who give us discounted prices but nevertheless our monthly veterinary bills are significant.

Every animal that is given for adoption from our kennel is vaccinated, dewormed and has a chip. All adult female dogs and cats are sterilised and many male dogs and cats castrated. Female puppies and kittens are given for adoption on the basis of an adoption contract in which the new owner obliges himself to have them sterilised when they reach the right age.

How can you help :

1. You can adopt a dog or cat. This is our primary objective – to find a loving home to those animals that have never had a good one. They have plenty of love to give and they will be eternally grateful. Do not worry about the distance, if you live in Algarve or Central Portugal, we can try to bring the animal to you.

2. If you cannot adopt, you can offer a temporary home to puppies until they complete vaccinations, or to old dogs that find it very difficult to live in rough conditions in the shelter, or to sick dogs in recovery, or to kittens and cats.

3. If you cannot adopt, you can also help us increaseanimal rescue centre portugal their life quality in the shelter: You can foster a dog on distance – choose your dog, choose a monthly amount you want to donate and help us like this.

4. You can come to the shelter and help, especially during the weekend, when many volunteers come. There is job for everyone.

5. You can sponsor a kennel, a dog house, a tree, a particular medical treatment, medications – whatever you choose.

6. You can become a member of the Association – by paying a yearly membership fee by the end of 2010 we have many gifts for you.

7. You can regularly call our solidarity number: 760 20 70 60, with one phone call you feed one animal per day.

8. If you fly from Lisbon to Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark or Sweden, you can help our pets. As we have some adoptions abroad, you can take an animal with you to its new home. Let us know when you fly and we will manage all details like animal passports, skykennels, a person to take the animal to Lisbon airport and do the check-in with you and a person at the destination airport to pick up the animal. You don’t need to do anything except transporting the animal.

A Scoop on Mexican Ice Cream

I got nothing today, i have been sitting here all morning trying to think of something to write about, and I got squat. Mind is not working good today, can’t get in the mood. So I opened my email, and I got this article sent to me from a newsletter I belong to here in Mexico.

Yesterday I was with my new friend from the Ukraine, and she was wanting some ice cream. So when I saw this article about ice cream in Mexico this morning, I thought some readers may be interested in ice cream since it is summertime, and hot everywhere.

It sometimes seems that every time you look around there’s a new ice cream parlor or store offering the latest in exotic flavors. The proliferation of fancy brands — Haagen Dazs, Ben and Jerry’s, Santa Clara — might lead you to the wrong conclusion about just how much ice cream Mexicans consume.

According to some reports, Mexicans only eat on average 1.5 liters of ice cream a year, a small fraction of what Americans and New Zealanders — the world’s top consumers — guzzle down.

Also somewhat surprising, for a relatively low-wage country, is the amount of business done by ice cream brands of which a single serving cone or tub can cost anything from three to four US dollars.

Market studies here can be incomplete in a country where there is a large informal economy, and products such as ice cream and popsicles are often made by individuals whose sales are off the marketing experts’ radar screens.

It’s ice-cream franchises, however, that are expected to generate the growth in product consumption in the country.

If you visit or live in a large city or tourist resort, the most likely place you’ll find ice cream is at one of these chains, many of which are located at malls. Local grocery stores—las tienditas—convenience stores such as Oxxo and 7-Eleven, as well as a majority of pharmacies have fridges with prepackaged ice creams and popsicles, mostly in single servings. Multi-packs and larger presentations are found in the freezers at supermarkets.

The best known brand of ice cream in Mexico, and apparently the one with the largest market share is Helados Holanda. These tend to be cheaper than the boutique brands, whether bought in individual servings or in larger packages. This makes a lot of sense when buying ice cream for a family, but for those particular about quality—all natural ingredients, for example—this apparently won’t do, and those who can afford it prefer to buy the expensive stuff.

It’s almost impossible not to come across a popsicle shop — paleteria — called La Michoacana. These shops sell a wide range of fruit-flavored paletas as well as cream ones, paletas de crema. A word of advice, go for the water ones. Although originally from the state of Michoacán, apparently just about anyone can call their paleteria La Michoacana, as this interesting report suggests.

In small towns, and still occasionally in large cities, you can find the traditional ambulant purveyors of helados, or nieves in the case of lime sorbets, being served from a push cart or from a container placed in ice on the front of an adapted bicycle. These vendors are famous for crying out “de limón la nieveeeeee!!!”

Soft ice cream from a machine is also growing in popularity, not only because of the flavor but also because of the price. McDonald’s offers a range of these ice creams at its restaurants, but also has external ice cream counters at many of its outlets for those who just want to pick-up some passing refreshment. If your budget is somewhat strained and it’s hot out, this can be quite a useful option.

Good Idea for Waste Plastic Bottles

Sealing a Bag with waste Plastic Bottles?

This was passed on by one of our readers… Wow, what a fantastic idea!
How to seal a bag and make it air-tight, for Free.

No more need to grapple with rubber bands, spring clips or twist ties, when sealing plastic bags.

Here in Portugal, like many hot countries, we all use lots of water bottles, especially in the hot summer months. This is a great idea to re-use them rather than recycling or throwing them away. Not only does it get rid of the bottle is gives you a brilliant water-tight bag sealer.

So if you are bagging up all your summer garden produce ready to freeze for the winter or bagging any sort of stewed fruit then this is a great eco idea.

Cut up a disposable water bottle and keep the neck and top, as shown in the left photo.

Push the open end of the plastic bag through the cut-off bottle neck, then open out the bag top so that it goes over the bottle kneck.

Then screw the bottle top over to seal it. The bottle is made to be air-tight, so that water will not leak, the secret lies with the top and screw!