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Columnists > Piglet in Portugal

Piglet in Portugal

Missing Food From Back Home - Is It Just Me?

  Posted Wednesday January 04, 2012 (18:52:05)   (4074 Reads)

Piglet in Portugal

Is it just the British who yearn for their favorite foods and familiar products or do other nationalities suffer from similar cravings? Before you leap from your chair in denial I realize this may be a generalization and food-from-home cravings do not apply to everyone. However, there are now so many shops specializing in British foods there must be a market in order for them all to survive.

A quick search of the Internet, plus local knowledge, revealed there are shops in countries such as Spain, Bulgaria, Portugal and even France. In the UK it is not uncommon to see Indian and Chinese specialty food shops and I am sure if I looked further I would find many more.

So why do we feel the need to purchase foods imported from our homeland? Do food cravings have the potential to make us feel homesick? Are we unable to find equivalent products or is it the product description in a “foreign” language that drives us to these shops?

In Lyon, France, I was amazed to discover an English food shop called “Little Britain”. The proprietor was a French guy; this had to be a first! However, I soon discovered he had lived in Scotland for many years and not only acquired a taste for British food, but also a British sense of humor. This manifested itself by naming his shop after the British TV Comedy show “Little Britain” (a parody of life in Britain). The shop stocked a great range of British foods, including haggis, Wagon Wheel biscuits, English mustard, Sweet Piccalilli, cranberry jelly, pork pies, bacon and English bread. English bread? Well, bacon “butties” would hardly be the same made with a baguette, would they? Little Britain had certainly arrived in France and as a country revered for its gastronomic delights I wondered if the locals ever ventured into his shop out of curiosity.

So, what foods are popular? I questioned friends and family who live abroad as to which foods they missed from home and the following proved the most popular: teabags, baked beans, sage and onion stuffing, gravy granules, Jaffa Cakes, Marmite, Walkers Crisps, Branston Pickle, English Mustard Horseradish sauce, English sausages, pork pie, cheddar cheese, Gammon joints and bacon.

Seasonal foods included Cadburys cream eggs, hot cross buns, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and finally mince pies.

Visitors from the UK find it highly amusing when they arrive bearing foodie provisions to replenish my stash. Said provisions, although shared, are carefully rationed!

As far as expats favourite meals are concerned I was scanning the papers this morning and noticed a brief article in the Telegraph which stated “A recent Post Office International Payments Happiness Index survey, which questioned people who have relocated abroad, suggested that traditional 'fish and chips' was the food expats missed the most, with 23 per cent of the vote.”

I’ve just asked Mr Piglet and without hesitation he said a “full English breakfast”!

However, relocating to a new country presents a great opportunity to step outside our comfort zone and not only experience a new culture and embrace new ideas but also experiment with new recipes and try new foods.

What foods do you crave from home, if any, and what have you learned about the cuisine in your new country? Let us know by adding a comment below.

In the meantime, I managed to solve one of our cravings by adapting a recipe and making my own Piccalilli, here it is:

Piglet’s Favourite Sweet Piccalilli


1 lb/450g onions cut into pieces
2 pints/1.2litres malt vinegar or white wine vinegar 6%
½ whole nutmeg grated or ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
½ teaspoon powdered allspice
2 medium cauliflowers – cut into small florets
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1lb runner beans or French beans cut into ½ inch/10cm lengths
12 oz/350g caster sugar
2 cloves of garlic
3 teaspoons salt
2 oz/50g mustard powder
1oz/25g turmeric powder
6 level tablespoons plain flour
5 tablespoons malt/white wine vinegar (in addition to above)
3 tablespoons water
Large saucepan, sieve, large basin and a variety of sterilized jars

Makes approx 5 lb/2.25kg


Place vinegar in large saucepan and add onions, nutmeg and allspice. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Add cauliflower florets, cucumber, runner beans and sugar. Crush garlic in salt, add to pan and then bring mixture back to boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture simmer for too long as vegetables need to be “al dente”.

Strain the contents of the saucepan through colander over a large bowl and leave vegetables to drain. Reserve the hot vinegar.

In a separate bowl, mix mustard powder, turmeric and flour together. Gradually add the 5 tablespoons of vinegar/water and blend well. The mixture once blended should resemble a paste. Gradually add all the hot vinegar to paste mixture and stir well to avoid any “lumps”.

Boil gently for 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and then add the vegetables. Mix well and make sure all the vegetables are coated with the sauce.

Spoon the mixture while hot into the screw-top heated sterilized jars.

When the piccalilli is cold; store in a cool dark place for 3 months before eating. Refrigerate once opened.

To discover more about everyday life in Portugal visit my blog Piglet in Portugal or follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/portugalpiglet

Piglet in Portugal
To discover more about life in Portugal visit Carole's blog Piglet in Portugal or follow her on Twitter where she tweets as @Portugalpiglet.
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