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.

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.

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!

The Roman Occupation of Portugal and Conimbriga

The modern name of Portugal was not used until the 11th cen­tury.

The names in italics are the ones that were used at the time of the Roman Empire.

In 210BC the Romans entered the southern Iberian peninsula and quickly subdued the Mediterranean coast and the south of Spain and Portugal. In the central Iberian region they met great re­sistance and in 193BC the Lusitani rose up in arms. Based in central Portugal between the Tejo and the Lima rivers the Lusitani were known to the Romans as ‘Strabo’ “the most powerful of the Ibe­rian peoples, who resisted the armies of Rome for the longest period”. Under the rebel leader Viriato, possibly born in the area of Loriga in the Serra d’Estrela, they held up the Roman advance for 50 years, only finally losing in 139BC.

In 60BC Julius Caeser established his capital at Olisipo (Lisbon) and then built significant settlement at Ebora (Évora), Scallibis (Santarém) and Pax Julia (Beja).

Under the Emperor Augustus the Iberian provinces were reorganised in 27BC, with everything but the north of Portugal governed as Lusitánia. The Minho area formed part of another province which was added to northern Spain to become Gallaecia, with an important regional centre at Bracara Augusta (Braga).

The Roman influence was greatest in the south, where they established huge agricultural estates ‘litifundia’ (many of which survive today in the Alentejo).They introduced wheat, olives, barley and of course vines, to Portugal. The Romans ruled for 6 centuries under the emperors Tiberius, Trajar, Hadrian (he of the famous wall in the UK) and Diodetian. They have left many roads and bridges which are still in use today, 2000 years later. The Portuguese lan­guage is heavily based on Latin, which was the language of Rome, and one of the biggest influences that survives to­day from the Roman Empire, through­out southern Europe.

Conimbriga is one of the largest Roman settlements in Portugal and is classified as a National Monument. It lies 16km south of Coimbra and is well signposted from the main road. The site has a mu­seum that displays objects found by ar­chaeologists, including coins and surgi­cal tools, and you can walk around the site virtually unrestricted.

Excavations were first recorded in 1899 but real systematic excavation work started in 1936 and is on-going. In the museum shop they sell an excellent book ‘Guide to the Ruins’ (available in English) which you should get before you tour the site.

The name Conimbriga derives from an early, possibly pre-Indo-European ele­ment ‘conim’ meaning “rocky height or outcrop” and the Celtic ‘briga’, signifying a defended place. It was first conquered in 137BC by Decimus Julius Brutus and remodelled in the Roman style by Au­gustus.
Although Conimbriga was not the larg­est Roman city in Portugal, it is the best preserved. The city walls are largely in­tact, and the mosaic floors and founda­tions of many houses and public build­ings remain. In the baths, you can view the network of stone heating ducts be­neath the now-missing floors.

Like many museums in Portugal there is a small entry fee but on Sundays and Public Holidays it is free. There is a café/restaurant in the museum where you can sit on the balcony overlooking the ruins, and a small gift shop.

Other roman sites in Central Portu­gal include The Rabaçal Roman Villae, which was situated close to the Roman Way that connected Olisipo to Bracara Augusta, on the road between Sellium (Tomar) and Conímbriga. Here there are some excellent mosaics displaying dol­phins, ivy leaves, the seasons, and more. The ruins are open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm but closed between 1pm and 2pm for lunch. In order to visit the ruins you must first visit the museum. The collections here came from the ex­cavations that have been carried out since 1984 in the Roman Villae and in the farm, both dating from the 4th cen­tury A.D. There are displays of ceram­ics, metals, glass and wall decorations made of marble.

At Santiago da Guarda, North West of Ansiao, it is also possible to see pre­served roman remains and mosaics, in a museum in the centre of the town. Here part of the visitor centre has glass floors and viewing areas to allow you to get the best views of the excavations.
At Bobadela north of Coimbra there is also a Roman Arch in the town along with numerous other pillars and fea­tures and Amphitheatre in the church grounds.

The decline of the Roman occupation of Portugal echoed its decline throughout Europe. The Roman Empire was already disintegrating when the first Christians landed on the southern shores of ‘Lusi­tania’ around 200AD.

In the early 5th century Lusitania was attacked and occupied by the Suevi and the Visigoths (Germanic peoples), and in 410 Rome was sacked by the Visig­oths led by Alaric I.