When a Portuguese moves to London, the first experience in a supermarket can be overwhelming. The amount of variety that each aisle has can be a quite disturbing experience. How many different types of mustard can exist? or cream? or spices? or sauces? or rice? And crisp, seriously, in how many different flavours can you have your crisps?
In my first year in London, I spent great part of my time between supermarket and my kitchen, experimenting all this new flavours and smells. I was thrilled, I was in heaven, but I have kids and like any other child they are creatures of habits. So they were the first to notice that here in London that you can’t find their favorite breakfast cereals or their favorite biscuit or either their favorite juice.
Sometimes, and I underline sometimes, I do miss some Portuguese goods, when this happens I just pop into Stockwell/Brixton where there is plenty of Portuguese delicatessens. Some goods are not necessarily Portuguese, but you can find in any supermarket in Portugal but not here in London.
If you are not Portuguese you are at this point wondering what can a Portuguese possibly miss beside the sunny days? Here is my list of things that I notice that are missing here from the groceries stores of London. Most of the things I do like and a few of them I am happy without.
Bacalhau Salted Cod – I started with this one because if there is any food that define us as a nation is salted cod. It’s the star ingredient in the Christmas’s Eve dinner. We have hundreds of recipes that use salted cod. As for me, I can live without it.
Enchidos – is the Portuguese word for every type of sausages except for the fresh ones. We have a big variety of enchidos and each region has their specialty. The most common ones are: Choriço, which is similar to the well known spanish chorizo; Alheira it’s a type of sausage made from meats other than pork. It was invented by Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity during the Portuguese inquisition. They replaced the pork with chicken to make believe they eat pork. Farinheira the name derives from farinha (wheat) and it’s a smoked sausage made from wheat and pork fat. Morcela is a black sausage made from pork, wine, spices and pig’s blood. Choriço-de -sangue (Blood chorizo) it’s not a Portuguese exclusive you will find in other different countries, ours is made from blood, pork fat and rice. The enchidos can be served alone as an appetizer but they are commonly used in different dishes. You can find all of them in the traditional Portuguese stew Feijoada. Feijoada is a beans stew with beef, pork, enchidos and vegetables. It is a very heavy meal as you would imagine, eat it for lunch and you will mot have to eat nothing for the rest of the day. I prefer the Brazilian version (black beans) and when it comes to feijoada my mum’s is the best.
Batata palha I can’t find the english translation but basically is potatoes sliced in juliana and deep fried. It is sold in packages as the crisps. It is served as side dish but it is an important ingrediente of Bacalhau a braz another common recipe made with salted cod, potatoes and eggs.
Bolachas maria – it’s a kind of tea biscuits but better specially the toasted ones. It’s the Portuguese children snack by default and the Portuguese brands are much better than the Spanish which unfortunately have invaded the Portuguese market.
Marmelada – is a type of solid jam made from quince, homemade are the best and my aunt’s are best of the best. Soo good between two slices of bread and much more delicious between two slices of cheese. I quite like the brazilian version as well goiabada made with guava.
Iscas – is liver cuted into very thin slices or steaks. My son’s favorite and the most hated dish by children. It’slike marmite: either you love it or you hate it, there is no in between. I love the classical way: fried with loads of onions…yummy.
Octopus – again another important ingredient in our gastronomy. I can live without it and I don’t know how to cook it. It’s a family favorite (husband and son) specially cooked in the oven with potatoes, the traditional polvo à lagareiro.
Cerelac – the most common baby food in Portugal I don’t know a single child or adult that hasn’t eat it as baby.
Cheese – yes the cheese aisle can be quite impressive here but you won’t find a single portuguese cheese and yes portuguese cheese is good. It’s smelly and strong but very good. As the enchidos there is a big variety an each region has their specialty . My favorite ones are Serra da estrela and Azeitao.
Requeijão – it is also a cheese but because it is an important ingredient in my kitchen I listed here. It is a type of cottage cheese or maybe is similar to ricotta. I use it in my pastas dishes and cheesecakes. Here I just replace it with ricotta.
Bread – ok let’s be clear by bread I mean fresh bread. The loaf that come in plastic bags aren’t bread as far as I’m concerned. In Portugal people eat bread with every meal and people buy it fresh every day. You can buy fresh bread almost anywhere or even get it delivered to your door. I miss going every morning to the cafe and buy fresh bread for our breakfast.
Fish – similar to the bread is really hard to find fish as good as the Portuguese and in the variety that you would find in a Portuguese supermarket. Every ordinary supermarket has a fishmonger where you can buy mackerel, trout, sea-bass sword fish (black or white), grouper, white grouper, snapper and so on. As family we were use to eat a lot of fresh fish, at weekends a roasted sea-bass with vegetables was a regular.
Seafood – speaking of fish, on the same fishmonger you would find a good variety of seafood: prawns, crab, clams, winkles and whelks, cockle, mussels. And we were so lucky that we were living quite close a very good seafood market on which we allowed our selves once a year a big feast.
Wine – I put in this list because Portuguese wine is good and soooo cheap. We are very good producers so you when you there you can only buy Portuguese wine. My favorite wine is Vinho Verde and it is very hard to find here.
Beer well this is just because I am a proud Portuguese girl but also because every sip on a Superbock takes me to sunny and warm places with ocean on the horizon.
Wow! It is a big list and if one day I go back I am sure the list will be bigger.