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.

A ‘Festive’ Christmas Cake Recipe

I am sure everyone will love this one, read and enjoy, then spread the word. Here is a festive Christmas cake recipe with full ingredients and method in detail, for everyone to enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • port wine
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 pack butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • Nuts
  • 3 bottles wine
  • 2 cups of dried fruit

Method:

  1. Sample the wine to check the quality.
  2. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
  3. Repeat the last operation.
  4. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
  5. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
  6. At this point it’s best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup… Just in case.
  7. Turn off the mixerer thingy.
  8. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
  9. Pick the flipping fruit up off floor.
  10. Mix on the turner.
  11. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.
  12. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity.
  13. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.
  14. Check the wine.
  15. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
  16. Add one table.
  17. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find really, hic.
  18. Greash the oven.
  19. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
  20. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.
  21. Finally, throw the bowl through the window.
  22. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.
  23. Go to Modelo and buy cake.

Bingle Jells!

5 Spices With Brain Health Benefits

Every day there are new studies touting the best medicines and supplements that can improve your brain health. But believe it or not, some of the items you can take for your mind can be found in your kitchen cabinet. Check out these five spices that will boost your brain power.

Cinnamon

A favorite spice used in everything from oatmeal and pancakes to apple pies and sweet breads, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree native to South Asia.

A study published in 2015 found that a cinnamon spice extract protected lab rats from cognitive impairment and brain damage. But the brain benefits for humans are also numerous. Eating cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve memory, increase attention and enhance cognitive processing.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is composed of a variety of compounds that have been shown to boost mood, relieve pain, relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Research even suggests that a nutrient found in the spice slows cognitive delay in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Nutmeg has also been known to help promote the recovery of brain tissue after a stroke. The spice originates from an indigenous Indonesian evergreen.

Cloves

Also native to Indonesia, but made from the dried flower buds of an evergreen clove tree, cloves are an antioxidant superspice. Not only does it have some of the antioxidant power of blueberries, a compound found in the spice is 29 times more powerful than aspirin when it comes to preventing blood clots.

Ginger

Ginger is an excellent pain reliever made up of active compounds that mirror that of capsaicin, a well known pain reliever found in chili peppers. But ginger is pretty spectacular on its own; it reduces nausea, controls inflammation, counters the movement of cell-damaging free radicals and works as a blood thinner. This spice is also known for protecting brain cells from Alzheimer’s related deterioration. Sixty middle-age women who participated in a 2012 study found that 800 mg of ginger extract improved their working memory and attention.

Cardamom

A study published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that consuming just a half teaspoon of cardamom a day for three months, in conjunction with taking part in a healthy diet, normalizes blood pressure and lowers risk of a stroke. The spice does this by relaxing the arteries and the muscles of the heart. A close relative of ginger and turmeric, cardamom’s antibacterial properties and antioxidant properties also help protect the brain cells from free radical damage.

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.

The Story of Mexican Beer

The Spaniards were the first to introduce barley and wheat based beers to Mexico although production was limited in the early days, in part due to the lack of available grains.

The first official concession to brew European-style beers was issued by the Spanish authorities in the middle of the 16th century; however, despite the brewers’ attempts to expand the business by growing more crops locally to increase the supply of barley at a lower price, heavy regulation and high taxation imposed by Spain on locally-produced beers and wines stymied the industry’s growth.

After Mexico’s War of Independence saw-off the European regulators and their taxes, beer production began to flourish in Mexico. During the latter part of the 19th century, an influx of German immigrants brought additional knowledge and expertise to the field which caused the local market to diversify and improve its products.

By the turn of the 20th century, beer had become big business in Mexico, helped also by prohibition in the United States at that time, which gave rise to a brisk and profitable trade of beer and other alcoholic beverages along Mexico’s border towns and cities.

By the time the Mexican Revolution was over, there were more than thirty-five breweries operating in Mexico.

Consolidation of the industry began in the early 1920’s and kick-started a process that brought about the beer market we see here today. During the period of consolidation, smaller breweries were absorbed into the one of the “big-two” breweries, Grupo Modelo and Cerveceria Cuautehmoc-Moctezuma, which emerged as the dominant players of the Mexican beer market.

Successful beers were mass-produced and distributed regionally or nationally, and less successful beers disappeared from the market altogether. Smaller breweries that were not bought-out were forced to close as they could not compete with the economies-of-scale brought about through consolidation.

Between them, Grupo Modelo and Cerveceria Cuautehmoc-Moctezuma now control over 90% of the Mexican beer market, with annual domestic sales totaling some 6 billion US dollars—exports add around 1.2 billion US dollars to the total.

The majority of beers sold today in Mexico are lagers, pilsners, Vienna-style light and dark beers, as well as Munich dark beers. A small number of local micro breweries produce a limited range of ales, sold in niche markets.

Beer in Mexico is served cold, or taken as a Michelada: beer with lime juice, or lime juice mixed with a variety of spicy sauces like Worcester, chili, or soy sauce.

The beverage is still regularly supplied using returnable bottles, although disposable cans and bottles are becoming increasingly common. If you are visiting Mexico and purchasing beer from a local store, choose the disposable bottles which don’t require a deposit and can be recycled after use.

When you’re living in Mexico, it’s worth building up a supply of returnable bottles which you can take back to the store when you want refills. Building up a rapport with your local store keeper might earn you the privilege of being able to take beer bottles without paying a deposit, as the store keeper trusts that you will return the bottles and, presumably, buy more beer from that store.

Most beer bottle sizes are 325ml, although some brands of beer are also available in larger 925ml, 940ml and full 1-liter sizes. In Mexican slang Spanish, the larger bottles are called to as caguamas (sea turtles) or if you’re in north-eastern Mexico you might hear them referred to as ballenas (whales); in Mazatlan, ballenas refer specifically to the Pacifico brand of beer sold in the larger-sized bottles.

For a detailed guide, further information and a summary of the principal beer brands sold here, read the Guide to Beers in Mexico.

Drought – Fish removed from dams

A total of 150 tons of fish were this week removed from Alentejo dams due to the persistent drought.

According to officials who staged an emergency meeting in Évora last week, the measure is to avoid contamination of the water which is at extremely low levels.

The operation will cost around 120,000 euros and will be focused in Ourique, Évora and Alcácer do Sal.

This comes after the Portuguese Met Office said that almost 80 percent of the country was in a state of drought at the end of last month, with the area of most concern being the Alentejo.