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The A to Z of Portuguese Food – Part 3

Chickpeas - cheap, filling and tasty

G if for Grão-de-bico

Grão-de-bico is what the Portuguese call chickpeas (literally ‘grain of beak’). This cheap and filling ingredient can be picked up in the supermarket for around €0.50 for a big jar and in these times of austerity chickpeas are clearly an attractive option.

Chickpeas have changed from being an ingredient I rarely used in England to something that I always keep a stash of in the cupboard. Used to make hummus, soups, salads and more, these grains are super healthy and provide a lovely creamy texture.

H is for honey

Before moving to Portugal I thought that honey (mel in Portuguese) was just honey. Here I have found out that it is something to be celebrated. All summer, local market stalls cross the Algarve selling their wares and a honey stall is always a fixture. It’s something you can pick up at most local food markets and is available in cute little pots for tourists to take home with them.

Jars are labelled according to the flowers that the bees that made the honey have feasted on. We’re currently on rosemary honey, which I’m drizzling generously over my porridge in the mornings to fight off the winter chill. We bought it for inclusion in a recipe and, being a diligent (if not very good) cook, I tasted a little before using it. The rich, sweet flavour was so special that I made my husband have a taste too, plus helped myself to another couple of cheeky spoonfuls.

Other honey flavours available locally include heather, sugarcane, eucalyptus and orange. Based on how good our rosemary honey is, I can’t wait to try the rest.

I is for iogurte

Yoghurt (iogurte) in Portugal is big business. The yoghurts and yoghurt drinks take up the whole side of an aisle in most supermarkets, with a range of fruity and dessert-type flavours similar to that in the UK. The key difference is that here most yoghurt is set, rather than creamy. If you’re after an English-style creamy yoghurt go for cremosa rather than just iogurte. Or do what I do and buy a set yoghurt then stir it up with your spoon before eating it 😉

Bio-type yoghurt with ‘good’ bacteria, plain yoghurt and Greek-style yoghurt are all available, but tend to be sweeter than those in the UK, particularly the Greek yoghurt. Yoghurt drinks also tend to be sweet, with flavours including strawberry cheesecake and pina colada.

The one thing that is almost impossible to get hold of in the Portuguese yoghurt world, unless you plan a trip to the English supermarket, is fat free yoghurt. Essential for any WeightWatchers recipe and something that I used to eat on fruit for breakfast most days, fat free or virtually fat free yoghurts don’t seem to be something which have captured the attention of the nation here. Although I do occasionally miss my fat free yoghurt and blueberry breakfasts, I have to admit that the sensible Portuguese attitude towards body shape makes for a much happier overall outlook on life!


Image credit: publicdomainimage, fotopedia