A taste of Portugal in Brixton

I’ve been going to the Portuguese delis in Brixton for years now but I’ve never said more to the owners than ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘is that the spiciest chorizo you have?’. Yesterday, however, I was asked to investigate Portuguese cuisine in London and the culture that surrounds it so I cycled there this morning, armed with camera and dictaphone, and finally got to meet the people behind the counter.

First stop was the Continental Deli run by Bella & José Cardoso and their family. They sell some of the best Portuguese cheese and chorizo in London and Bella was more than happy to tell me some of the stories behind their produce. Firstly Alheira, a sausage made from chicken and beef that was originally made to deceive the Portuguese inquisition in the 15th century.  If you weren’t seen to be cooking the traditional pork sausage over the fire you would be persecuted as a Jew, so Jewish families would make sausages out of chicken, rabbit, duck or veal to fool the inquisition into believing they were traditional, pork-loving catholics.

Chorizo at the Continental Deli

Chorizo at the Continental Deli

Next, Bella showed me a whole salt cod, once considered ‘poor man’s food’, it now fetches £80 per fish! Apparently there are 365 ways of cooking salt cod, one for every day of the year, and it always needs soaking overnight or longer depending on the thickness. Bella’s had salt cod in a soufflé, deep-fried, baked and boiled. I asked whether it was ever served in a salad and apparently we should try serving it with thinly sliced chips, scrambled eggs and olives—sounds quirky but worth a try I reckon.

José, Bella and the £80 salt cod.

José, Bella and the £80 salt cod.

Bella was born in the UK and lives in Streatham with her husband José. She mainly cooks English food at home so, for home-cooked Portuguese fare she goes to her mum’s in Norwood, often for her favourite Cocido (literally meaning boiled)—a thick stew of various chorizos served with boiled cabbage and rice. Bella beams when she talks about this dish—I want to try it. After our chat I realised I’d forgotten to eat breakfast and my blood sugar was dangerously low—an ideal moment to sample the traditional potuguese pastry, pastel de nata (pastry of cream). A small, perfectly formed and phenomenally tasty custard tart for only 85p in my local area… hazardous.

Delicious pastel de nata

Delicious pastel de nata

After brushing the crumbs from my chin and groaning a little, Bella informs me that the Portuguese also have a very sweet tooth and are obsessed with coffee—a meal is never finished before espresso. At 11am every morning, the hundreds of small cafés in Lisbon are full of people drinking espresso and munching on freshly baked pastries. That’s all before lunch… sounds like my kind of place.

This article is part of the Eating Eurovision project. To see all the entries please click here.

Continental Deli, 3 Atlantic Road, Brixton, London SW9 8HX. Tel: 0207 733 3766.

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19 Responses to A taste of Portugal in Brixton

  1. Helen says:

    Do you think you can persuade her to get the recipe for that chorizo stew?!

  2. Pingback: Eating Eurovision: Portugal « Eating Eurovison ‘09

  3. goodshoeday says:

    I’ve had salt cod omelette on holiday in Portugal but made by me and it was really lovely. Cocido is also great – I love their soupy dishes – I’ll have to look out a Portuguese deli near me

  4. saladclub says:

    I’m definitely planning to return with my notebook and poach some recipes!

  5. canelvr says:

    I love those little cakes! I get mine from a Portuguese deli in Croydon, randomly enough.

  6. I went to Lisbon last week and formed a serious addiction to the pastel de nata. Quite intimidated by that salt cod though.

  7. Lizzie says:

    I don’t know much about portugese food – I remember having some sort of marinated steak in a floury bap when I was there on holiday, but not much else.

    Love the pastel de natas though – there’s a stall in Berwick St market that do bread, bagels, and them. Delicious.

  8. Su-Lin says:

    I’ve had this salt cod and egg and potato dish at my local Portuguese cafe….it looks like a mess but is so delicious! Did you get some salt cod to cook with? I’m always tempted to but it’s the preparation that scares me a bit.

  9. saladclub says:

    Yes I was slightly put off by the prep time and the price tag but I’m determined to try a salt cod salad soon… watch this space.

  10. Browners says:

    Is this the deli by the station? If so I’m delighted to have found a good source of chorizo. That salt cod looks incredible – as do the little pastries.

  11. saladclub says:

    Yep it’s the first one on Atlantic Road. I interviewed the guys with the salted pigs ears and tails at the next deli along too… will post soon.

  12. Browners says:

    I went there last week and cooked haddock with their spicy chorizo. It was delicious.

    I had a good chat with them about you and Eating Eurovision. It’s such a great deli. I’m now addicted!

  13. saladclub says:

    So glad to be spreading the word about that place – they deserve the acclaim. Your haddock and chorizo dish sounds delicious.

  14. kiwidutch says:

    Excellent article Saladclub, what a great shop to be able to drool in! I too am a Portugal & Portuguese cooking aficionado, and just started a blog last week (total newbie LOL) here in NL I can get salt cod for about Euro 13 per kilo. Pastel de nata is also easy to make at home. This is my first ever blog comment, hope I posted it ok, yes?

    regards, Kiwidutch.wordpress.com

  15. saladclub says:

    Thanks kiwidutch!
    13 € a kilo sounds far more reasonable.
    Good luck with your blog.

    Rosie & Ellie

  16. BrixtonSaint says:

    I love the Continental and their pastel de nata but I’m afraid it might soon have some competition in the form of a new Portuguese deli opening up at the top of Brixton Hill. Paulo’s is taking its time to open the doors but looks as though the Lisboa influence is spreading. If anyone does travel up the hill and is there in the evening, I can’t recommend enough, Galleria. The Piri Piri Chicken and the accompanying rice are devine. Knocks socks off Nando’s!

  17. Patricia Pons says:

    Hi, I read your grazia article and this is definitly something I would love to guive a go. I’m portuguese and love to cook and try new things. I allways wanted to have a small food business and this is perfect ! If you dont mind telling me how did you guet started and wath I need to do. I can allways help you with some portuguese recepies and you can came to my house at any time and try it.

  18. Pingback: Feeding the five thousand. « EatMeDrinkMe

  19. bearmon2010 says:

    I am Portuguese and I cook Portuguese food all the time. I rather Portuguese food over American food. I always watched my mom’s cooking and google Portuguese receipe tradition only. My favorite! 🙂

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