One of our favourite ‘shops’ in Olhão daily market is Charcutaria Formosa owned by Elisabete. She’ll be celebrating her two year anniversary here in November, having moved her business in 2014 from her home town of Tavira. Tavira’s loss is definitely Olhão’s gain, as this is an excellent delicatessen. Elisabete is lovely, very knowledgeable about her products and also very tolerant of our limited Portuguese. She of course speaks excellent English and French. Her husband also speaks French, and he’s next door at Talhos Formosa. Talho means Butcher in English, and Talhos Formosa has been here in Olhão market for 10 years.
The market is doing well, and the increase in tourists is certainly helping local businesses such as Charcutaria Formosa. However unfortunately not all tourists support the local businesses. I was dismayed to watch the behaviour of a group on a guided tour of the market when Elisabete and I were chatting. They were all happy to photograph and point things out, but none of them stopped to buy anything from anyone. Apparently it unusual for guided tour groups to stop long enough to purchase what catches their eye. Personally I can’t see the point of going around a food market unless you buy!
Not sure what first caught our eye in Elisabete’s delicatessen, possibly her excellent range of cheeses or it could have been the ham – Jamón de Cebo de Campo Ibérico produced by Union Alosnera. This ham is from Iberian Pigs which roam freely in woodlands and pastures in the Spanish hills. It has a unique taste because of the acorns that the pigs are fed in the latter part of their lives. A good ibérico ham will have been cured for up to 3 years and has regular flecks of intramuscular fat – the marbling effect is a positive thing. I was amazed to learn from Elisabete that sometimes a shoulder doesn’t last the week. My amazement is solely due to the price as this ham is 55€ per kg, and this is only a medium grade of Jamón ibérico. The highest grade is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota which can cost closer to 100€ per kg.
Her best sellers however are the traditional small cheeses, and if you are staying here a week or so we’d certainly recommend buying five as that way you get to sample a range of traditional cheeses for just 5€. There are also the fresh cheeses, soft like cottage cheese and often served with honey.
One of Elisabete’s favourite cheeses is Amanteigado, this is an incredibly buttery sheep cheese from Seia. As with most Portuguese cheeses it is handmade. The curds of the Amanteigado are set using thistle flowers, and when ripe this cheese oozes. Perfect for dunking your bread in after you have sliced off the top! Another favourite of Elisabete’s is the award winning cured sheep cheese made by Eira da Vila in the Serpa region of Portugal. Again very buttery in texture, and when ripe oozes like a Camembert across your plate.
As well as cheese and ham Elisabete sells jams, chouriço, bacon, sheep’s butter and folar, an Olhão speciality. Folar as regular readers will recall from my post a few weeks ago is a favourite of mine. We also really like chouriço. Most English of course where they hear the word immediately think of chorizo, the Spanish version. However this sausage originates from whole of the Iberian Peninsular, and so it is as much Portuguese as it is Spanish.
As we return shortly to England for the summer I’m already anticipating how much I am going to miss Charcutaria Formosa and everything else in the wonderful Olhão markets. I better go and eat lots of Portuguese cheese right now to help mitigate the loss, but not before I say thank you again to Elisabete for her time and help in preparing this post. Any mistakes are mine. Oh and my title I borrowed that from Howard Jacobson of The Independent, hope he doesn’t mind!