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.