13 Atlantic Road, SW9 8HX
020 7501 9540
This is a Portuguese butcher in one of the railway arches in Atlantic Road, so vegetarian readers might wish to stop right here. For some time I thought that the name was “Talho Acougue”, because that’s what it says most prominently above the shop. But this just means “butcher butcher” using two terms for the same thing, depending on what variety of Portuguese is being used. The shop sign also displays the flags of Portugal, Brazil, Madeira and the UK, which also suggests something of the background.
The centrepiece of the shop is the display of meat aimed at the Portuguese/Brazilian community, more of which later. But this underplays what the shop has to offer. At a glance it might look as if it only sells fruit and veg, with serve yourself boxes outside. It was for the fruit and veg that I started to use the shop when I found that their produce often seemed to be of better quality than in many of the other shops – maybe they use a different wholesaler. It’s not always true but definitely worth checking out. But this shop is certainly more than just fruit and veg. While the inside is pretty cramped there’s a wide range of dry goods, bread, biscuits, etc. where, again, you pick out what you need. There are also freezers with stuff such as octopus. Particularly good is a limited selection of excellent olives. One thing there isn’t much evidence of is patiserie, despite what it says on the shop front.
Given it’s so small it always seems to be crowded, often with most of the other customers speaking Portuguese. This is a shop that is still aimed at its own community and has changed little over the last 20 years or so. The staff will willingly answer your questions but at first you might feel a bit of an intruder.
The focus of this review, however, has to be on the meat. This is uncompromising and quite unlike what you would expect from a British butcher. You look at the trays of meat and wonder, possibly not daring to ask, what they are. Is that really a tray of pigs’ ears and are those the snouts? And much of the meat is heavily salted, with some turning a colour that doesn’t look quite right if, up to now, you’ve only bought your meat from a supermarket. It was this unknown factor that for many years stopped me from actually buying any of the meat. I have now overcome this reticence and discovered that this is really good stuff.
The purpose of these posts on Brixton food shops is to suggest something you can cook having bought everything from one shop. Which means that for Cinco Quinas it has to be that Brazilian favourite feijoada (pronounced fay-ZHWA-dah). This is essentially black bean stew with meat or, the way I made it, meat stew with black beans. This is one of these dishes where everyone has their own recipe, with plenty of information on the web – for example here. The key point is that it has to include as many different sorts of meat as possible, which makes it hard to make a small quantity. Either you invite a lot of friends round or be prepared to eat it all week. But it’s straightforward, providing you’ve got the time it needs to cook. And, if you buy everything from Cinco Quinas, it is bound to be seriously tasty.
So this, with apologies to any Brazilian readers, is my recipe
The ingredients are: Salted pork ribs; Salted beef; 2 Pig’s trotters; Toucinho fumado (smoked ham) 300 gr; Chourico corrente 200 gr (Portugese spicy sausage, similar to chorizo); Black beans 400 gr; couple of onions; bay leaves; garlic; chopped parsley; & fresh coriander. The smoked ham and sausage are essential, providing much of the flavour. I took advice from the guy who runs the shop and he confirmed that I had chosen enough to make an authentic version of feijoada. Note that I haven’t put quantities for some of the meat. I just choose what looks like a reasonable amount when I’m actually buying the stuff but you can get an idea from the picture.
I find it’s best to soak both the beans and the salted meat overnight. This is for two completely different reasons. With the meat you need to change the water a couple of times to remove the saltiness. For the beans it lessens the effect of those sugars on the gastric system that can make you less of social asset the day after eating this. But do not change the water with the beans if you want the authentic inky blackness in the end result. At least three hours before you want to eat, boil the beans in the soaking water vigorously for 30 minutes. While this is happening prepare the other ingredients, using a large stew pot to fry the chopped onions with the parsley , bay leaves and minced garlic until soft. Then you just add all the meat after separating the ribs and cutting the rest into eating size pieces; and then the beans with their cooking liquid plus whatever extra water is needed to make sure it’s is all covered. All that’s needed now is to stew it gently on top of the stove until the beans are done. This can take two hours or more and the only way to check is to test the beans. You also have to keep checking to ensure the pot doesn’t boil dry.
When it’s ready the classic step is to crush some of the beans with a ladle to thicken the liquid. I cheat here by taking some of the beans and cooking liquid and putting them in a liquidiser before adding them back. At which point it’s ready. The classic serving presentation is with boiled basmati rice, greens, toasted manioc flour and a garnish of chopped coriander. Cinco Quinas sell the manioc flour of course, and it’s prepared by frying it in butter in a hot frying pan, stirring all the time to make sure it doesn’t burn. It’s also meant to come with slices of orange but on this occasion I forgot. There’s nothing complicated and everyone I’ve served it to has agreed that the result was delicious.