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NOT fish fingers a la Portuguese

Fellow kid-novelista MG’s been torturing me all week with beachside Blackberry-blogging from Brazil, so when my Brazilian buddy Be pined loudly for the Bossa Nostra bistro in Brighton, I said ‘brilliant’ and booked a B&B. When the alphabet is that freakishly persistent, I say roll with it.

I’ll concede that Maracajau probably had the edge on the weather, but even in an April weathermunge (blue sky, sunshine, high winds, bloody freezing) I love Brighton: tacky seaside town reeking of chips, hipster bohemia, party town, shady underworld where Pinky might pop up with a knife and do you in down some Art Deco alleyway. Where else could you find a retro arcade on the prom, complete with genuine 1920s end-of-the-pier peepshow viewers, hand-cranked and run on George IV pennies? But the highlight was undeniably the food. I’d no idea what to expect of Brazilian cuisine – and being a somewhat gigantic country, there’s plenty of regional variation. But the national dish is Feijoada, and if you know anyone who can make it, equip your kitchen with manacles and kidnap them immediately. Black bean stew with beef and pork might not sound all that thrilling, but I would gladly make it my last meal on death row. Yep, even above bacon sandwiches.


Feijoada: traditionally served with rice, farofa (ground manioc – a bit like maize), couve (fried greens), and a slice of orange (said to counteract the fat content: I do not entirely believe this bit). I’ll be trying to recreate it: anyone likely to come for dinner, be warned, you may be experimented upon…

* ‘Fish fingers a la Portuguese’ was what my Dad always threatened to cook us for tea if my Mum was otherwise engaged. I still have no idea what they might be. He does a good sprat, though.

book_mini Brighton’s North Laine has some nifty secondhand shops (not least Snoopers’ Paradise, which I very nearly left with a Man from UNCLE annual, several dozen plastic Lando Calrissians, and a top hat). Instead I wound up with some well-thumbed Dick Francis, and Knights of the Cardboard Castle by Elizabeth Beresford (of Womble-creating fame) which I remember loving. I don’t remember it being filled with people called Dickie, Ginger, and Mr Trumpet, though. It makes me wonder growing up in a second Golden Age of kidlit is depriving this generation of certain skills: I read so much Blyton, C.S.Lewis and Ransome that I developed an automatic socio-historical context filter, and contemporary characters who weren’t hopelessly gender-stereotyped and prone to adventuring parentless with gypsies and ginger beer were the aberrations. But Blyton still sells a million books a year worldwide, albeit under painfully misleading chicklit covers. I’m guessing the filter just comes naturally, the same way you know after a sentence or two whether something is literature, or just ‘pleasantly readable’.

pencil_mini As well as Brazilian food, Brighton also possesses a bakery in the Lanes that produces cupcakes to die for. These were necessary for important book research. Expect multiple loving descriptions in Biscuits & Lies (though, you know, I might have to go back just to clarify). In other news, there’s a rather spiffy micro-site accompanying a competition to win signed Big Woos over at MyKindaPlace. They’re giving away chocolate with the books: think I might have to enter myself…

rocrastination_mini Eating my words about Catherine Tate on Doctor Who (where do I sign up to the Donna Noble fanclub?); missing the old Skins cast already, even though they’re dead right to reshuffle; rediscovering the route to the gym at long last (feijoada, cupcakes: not exactly diet food); playing ancient PJ Harvey very very loudly indeed.


23 thoughts on “NOT fish fingers a la Portuguese”

  1. he he, told you you’d like feijoada! Had forgotten farofa – (manioc puking noise) though I think they do at least process out the wiggly barbed wire bits for it. They DEFINITELY didn’t serve it up with greens where I had it. Or oranges. Just five different kinds of carbohydrate…

    Did they have a moqueca? Mmmm.

    Good grief – I remember liking Knights…, but have no recollection whatsoever what it was about. Didn’t they build a den in a hedge or something?

  2. Feijoada = food of the gods! I would go back to Brighton just for that, tbh. The farofa isn’t massively exciting, but hey, at least I caught sight of a vegetable! They did have Moqueca, but I couldn’t resist more Feijoada when we went back: B had Bobo instead, which is a sort of prawny curry (v mild – they give you tabasco so you can heat things up) with cassava and was delish, though. I’m getting hungry just remembering this place, ai…

    Knights is all about some kids taking over a derelict area as a playground/castle, which then is about to be built on, so they kidnap the developer, tie him up, and throw wet newspaper at him. It’s a great example of that ‘but why must adults be such swines?’ thing, but it is infinitely more dated than I remembered. Not helped by being in one of those Dragon editions like the Five Find-Outers we had: green Dragon for small children, Blue dragon for improving etc.

  3. A million books a year worldwide? *now* I know why I wanted to be her. Feel free to experiment on me with as much pork and beef as you can muster. But leave off the oranges – they’ll make you fat you know (fnar).

    Dr Who Donna hmm, but didn’t you keep expecting to hear her say ‘Am I bovvered?’

    I used to know a Portuguese lesbian if that throws any light on your Dad’s recipe?

  4. I think fishfingers a la portuguese involved some kind of tomato sauce (not ketchup, actual tomato sauce). As I was in my ‘I don’t eat tomatoes’ phase at the time I suspect I only ever ate the fishfingers even if he did cook it. (Reassuring to think back – nothing new in faddy eating, and boy have I grown out of that…) Though I think you’re right – it got threatened rather more than cooked.

    The main effect of ffap was to leave me with a vague assumption a) that Dad couldn’t cook – one of his cunning ploys to avoid ever having to do so I suppose and b) that portuguese food might be a bit rubbish. Both untrue.

    Haven’t seen Dr W for all the usual reasons, but think I am actually allergic to Catherine Tate…

  5. Catherine Tate is annoying. That is the first law of Catherine Tate. She cannot be acceptable, or even placid. She is ginormously (I don’t think I’ve ever written that word down before) annoying. Even though she is allegedly a RADA-trained luvvie, and NOT a “comedienne”, she can’t act her way out of a cannibal’s cooking pot.

    First episode of the new series sucked the testicles of the Sky-God, despite the welcome presence of the Sky-God’s Sky-God, Bernard Cribbins . Second episode was utterly brilliant, but ultimately depressing, as I couldn’t play the “which bit of my childhood are they filming in now” game my future wife finds so unappealing. Bloody Dr Who budget, allowing them to film in some other blimmin’ country (although stark anonymous Welsh hillside at the end of the episode got a giggle).

    Hey Susie, why not continue your alliterative journey to other cities beginning with the letter ‘B’? 😛

  6. P.S. Re: Knights of the Cardboard Castle.

    Are you sure you’re not confusing this with Elizabeth Beresford’s “Toby’s Luck”, where a young boy finds a bit of derelict land and makes dens and maps of it and basically turns it into his own kingdom until some nasty developers show up?

    Growing up opposite The Kymin (a perfect Doctor Who location, if ever I saw one), it was a book I related to very strongly, as I was in the business of drawing maps and making dens in my spare time – I note that Toby didn’t discover hardcore pornography in his dens though. Clearly he was a boy who missed out.

    Haven’t read it since I was 7, mind. (‘Toby’s Luck’, or possibly hardcore pornography. One of the two)

  7. Kymin not what it was… I go to pregnancy yoga classes there where we scare the bridge club with our lion breaths. I told the woman next to me that the last time I’d been there it was a squat and I was scared of falling through the holes in the floorboards. I think she thought I was a bit odd (and old).

    Plenty of fiancee-annoying to come, rarg. Season finale apparently filmed on John Street (the Penarth Times revealed that Billie Piper was spotted – Real News in the PT these days, including this, which is currently top watched clip on the bbc news site today).

    Hard to imagine some genuine end-of-the-universe event on John St, but let’s wait and see. Victoria School and Rudry street were also dressed up as some kind of wartime thingy as I got stuck trying to get through there with a pushchair and there were a million prop bins blocking the pavement. Sadly failed to see anyone famous though.

    And I missed Bernard Cribbins? Dammit.

  8. Ooh, you chatty lot!

    J; yep, some sort of tomato sauce sounds likely. Perhaps the kind that comes in a glass bottle with the word ‘Heinz’ written on it? Reminds me of when Nicky used to make us lunch menus to glam up some jam sandwiches. It’s all in the presentation!
    T said the school was being war-torn Leeds for a bit. It does make one’s viewing experience a bit bonkers: thanks to Torchwood I’m now convinced if you stand at the top of the cliffs on a windy day, you can probably hear the caged nutters on Flat Holm. And obviosuly we all know Manhattan is actually round the back of Cogan Leisure…

    Rarg: thought I might shimmy to that particular B for a wedding sometime soon. 😛 And have checked out Beresford, and she appears to have just written the same book twice, ten years apart. Clearly she had more in common with Enid than I’d realised, the sneaky woman.

  9. You have an official invite back to Brighton where our Brazilian friend Deborah and her partner Alison live. Ali’s feijoada is said to be something very special! And we are going to need a Brazil reminder because WAH! we are leaving tomorrow.

    I can’t actually have proper feijoada myself anymore what with my vegginess. But today we did Lounging by the Lake Pitangui north of Natal, drinking caipirinhas, eating seafood (everyone else), chips and ice-cream and generally lamenting the need to return to England.

  10. If you’re expecting sympathy, you’re in the wrong place! Although not eating meat in Brazil is probably a bit of a challenge: are you surviving on cachaca and nothing else?

    Foodie trips to Brighton: oh yes please!

  11. Blanches at the thought of a diet composed of nothing but manioc. I guess the caipirinhas would deaden the pain…

  12. Susie you are the most talented, beautiful, funny, marvellous person I know and I love you to bits, hope you know that. Now, when are you going to get your arse over to Caroline’s? She’s pining for you. And where are those free copies of S67?

  13. Hello there, Ali here, officially extending the feijoada tasting invite to our home in Brighton. Though must confess my version is not quite traditional – if youre partial to the pigs ears and large hunks of fatty pig skin floating on the top then ýou might be disappointed… Anyway very welcome to come and wash it down with a caipirinha or three, whenever MG can be persuaded to make the trek.

  14. fatty pig skin = eek! (unless deep fried and served with beer)

    Hello Ali from Brighton. I met an Al from Brighton a few weeks ago – Al Start and she’s fab.

  15. Hello Ali! I am all for going atraditional when the tradition involves ears in my dinner. The caipirinhas sound grand too: hurrah! MG is definitely not entitled to go on holiday for a bit (I’m getting far too jealous) but will pester her when she does!

    Josie: ta for kicking me, am rubbish at keeping in touch with people at the mo. Nice whisker (though it’ll be the HTML that’s mucking it up, I reckon). And I have a big old box of Big Woo on my kitchen floor now, so if you want one just shout!

  16. I’d forgotten about the lunch menus!

    I don’t ever remember eating FFAP but they were a constant threat – probably why I learned to cook at a young age! I do remember him trying to recreate some weird Dutch thing called ‘kartoffelpoofer’ or something like that, which involved potatoes and vast amounts of garlic (don’t think the garlic was authentically Dutch). I think his cooking’s improved since then.

    I was feeling quite hungry over these Brazilian food descriptions until the ears and fatty skin were mentioned – great diet tip!!!

  17. Nicky how can you have forgotten eating FFAP. Dad used to occasionally make them for himself for breakfast! There was some kind of tomatoey sauce (not the ketchup sort – real tomatoes and onions and stuff) that you poured over the fishfingers – as I remember the original version had bits in and we didnt like them and made dad sieve it! I have no idea what was particularly portuguese about it though.
    I don’t remember the Kartoffelpoofer but I do remember him cooking some shellfish he had found on a french beach and then him carrying them around the campsite in a sandcastle making type of bucket and trying to persuade someone to eat them. Don’t remember anyone queuing up outside our tent for a sample!

    Please can I not have any piggy ears – bleurch

  18. Hee, family gathering!

    Nicky: KARTOFFELPOOFER! I’ve no idea what it was but it does sound familiar. And those menus were fab: highlight of many a summer holiday.

    Tina: maybe you were so unimpressed by it that he’d given up cooking it by the time we came around? It sounds fairly horrible though. He did make some mean sprats for us on Saturdays for a while, I remember. But not ones he’d found on a French beach…

    Josie: yes, I’m living in NYC in a fabulous Manhattan apartment, sipping lattes by day and Cosmos by night. I just pretend at a more mundane existence so the rest of you don’t feel so bad. 😛 (Do pork scratchings really include ears? I mean, it’s not like I imagine deep fried pigskin to be especially nice, but the concept of it being ears is quite icky.)

  19. Susie I’m impressed at the size of your family. So far it looks like you’ve got about five older sisters. Lucky you (or not?)

    Next time we have a Talents get together can it be at your NYC pad?

    Porky scratchings include every bit of the piggy skin including the bits you’d rather not think about. Yum. Black pudding anyone?

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