About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006
Viva Portugal!
My quest for Ortiz anchovies found me over at Casa Iberica, the Portuguese grocers in Fitzroy. It's funny isn't it, when you know of a shop's existence for years and years and for some reason you don't go and when you finally get there, you wonder why you never went in the first place. I wasn't paying too much attention to the outside, though I do recall it was painted quite gaudily; it's not a shop front that you could easily miss, an important consideration as you drive down busy Johnston Street in Melbourne's Latin quarter. Be warned, parking is rather scarce.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the salty aroma from all the dried hams, chorizos and salchichons hanging over the deli counter. There are shelves all around packed to the gunwales with all manner of exotic goods, not only from Portugal but from Spain, Mexico and the USA. The first shelf I perused was full with a variety of canned seafood, very popular on the Iberian Peninsula. I felt for my glasses so I could read the labels, but had left them behind, no matter everything was in Portuguese or Spanish. There were sardinas (sardines), pulpo (preserved octopus), berberechos (cockles), atun (tuna), caballas (mackerel), zamburinas (scallops), anchoas (anchovies, no Ortiz though), mejillones (mussels) and many more things besides.

Down another aisle were all the spices, paprika, cumin, Spanish oregano, achiote, dried chiles - guajillo, chipotle and ancho - as well as all the hot sauces you would ever need, with nary a bottle of Mcllhenny Tabasco sauce in sight. It was down this aisle that I started to make some wonderful discoveries, like a tin of hominy that I needed to make this. On another shelf was a tin of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, I'm all ready swooning and then there was some masa harina, stone ground corn flour for my very own tortillas and tamales! Plus the full range of Portuguese and Spanish rices.

All this before I've even got to the deli counter.

At one side of the shop were paella pans, from the small to a monstrous 70 cm (28") pan to feed God knows how many. Next to the pans is an upright freezer groaning with more seafood and beside that was a shelf with different kinds of dried bacalao - salt cod. By this time I'm standing next to the deli counter and eyeing off some of Angel Cardosos's jamon plus a variety of other smallgoods and cheeses. I order some jamon and ask if they ever stock Spanish ones, the women serving me laughed and said it would cost me $300 a kilo. Damn, now I have to have it, but not at this moment.

I'm given a taste of everything I point at and finish up with some Spanish goat's cheese, some salchichon, similar to salami but strongly flavoured with paprika and a morcilla, which is a spicy version of a black pudding, again flavoured with paprika. Somehow I manage to stop ordering, but not before a portuguese pastel de nata, a custard tart, finds its way to my box.

When I get home it's straight into all the goodies. Pop goes the lid on a tin of legendary pimientos del piquillo, roasted and skinned like a small red capsicum but way sweeter. Next the lid comes off the mejillones de las Rias Gallegas, mussels in escabeche, a pickle sauce, that puts any tin of mussels here to shame. Then I swoop upon the jamon. It is similar in preparation to prosciutto but is a darker burnished brown, and has mouth filling deeper notes that linger. Unlike some prosciuttos that have a hard section of dried out meat opposite the fat side, this jamon is tender the entire way and is perfectly seasoned - some dried hams are way too salty, but while the salt is evident, it's perfectly balanced.

My wife adored the semi hard Spanish goat's cheese and they also had a semi hard Australian one for a very reasonable $24 a kilo. The morcilla we had for dinner last night and is a firm black pudding strongly flavoured with paprika and salt, plus other spices. I'm thinking about what partners would sit well with this on a kebab.

There are a few more things we are yet to try, but for me, this shop is a case of love at first sight. The range is extensive and interesting and the staff very helpful, willing to let you try new things, though you do need an open mind regarding new experiences plus a dash of blind faith would be helpful - go on, black pudding is all right.

Casa Iberica, 25 Johnston Street, Fitzroy & 24 Hughes Street, Yarraville

P.S. My blog is shortly going to have a little makeover, part of which is courtesy of a lovely Spanish person.
  posted at 8:43 am

At 2:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

did they have red and green bell peppers? need them for my spanish rice I wanna make! help a sister out!

At 3:15 pm, Blogger Ed Charles said...

Such a great shop. i must spent more time north of the river. What happened to the anchovies? look forward to seeing the makeover.

At 3:15 pm, Blogger neil said...

If you mean fresh capsicum, I think they did - this is of no help to you, but they did have plantains. They also had a range of peppers in the tin, the piquillo peppers were red & gorgeous, though I didn't see green chilies in the tin. Good luck with the rice!

At 3:17 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi ed, I'll be back for sure. I didn't get to Prahran Market yet, for sure very soon.

At 5:15 pm, Blogger lobstersquad said...

Hi Neil
It´s such fun, going to a shop like that. It sounds really good, just like our own ultramarinos. Don´t you love that name, "overseas", for a food shop?

At 11:25 pm, Blogger Kalyn said...

Look forward to seeing what you'll do with the blog. This sounds like a wonderful shop.

At 10:04 am, Blogger Ange said...

This shops sounds too good to be true, I will have to get down there soon!

At 10:39 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi lobstersquad, yep, overseas works like a charm for me everytime! Would love to browse through one of your ultramarinos one day.

Hi kalyn, the new header is fantastic, haven't seen the new skin yet, but it's not far away. It is a really great shop.

Hi ange, and to think I've known about it for at least fifteen years, that's a lot of time to make up for.

At 6:09 pm, Blogger Jose Maria said...

Beware of spanish cured ham varieties, it can't be quite tricky to find your way among the "jamon de jabugo", "jamon pata negra", "jamón iberico" or "iberico de bellota" vareties of spanish serrano ham.
Here are a few links to help you out:
Jamon iberico at the Wikipedia
Iberico Spanish Serrano Ham Production
"Pata Negra" Spanish Serrano Ham

At 6:16 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Jose, thanks for that, I've often wondered about all the names. Many a trap for the unwary!

At 3:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys are so lucky in Melbourne with shops like that!
We live in Brisbane now. To tell you the truth, I discovered Casa Iberica back in the late 70s when I used to run a restaurant Barrio Chino in Hawthorn !
Matteo Cheung

At 9:48 am, Blogger neil said...

You're right there, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else, but I've heard the food scene in Brisbane is improving all the time.

At 11:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi ... I am Portuguese and new in Brisbane. With Xmas around the corner I wondered if any Brisbaners could tell if if/where I can buy bacalhau here???
Xmas will not be the same without it ... Thank you!

At 1:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi "anonymous",
I know its a bit late for Xmas but you can buy our beautifully tasty bacalhau in Brisbane at two places that I know of. You can buy it at a little croceries shop on West End's Boundary St called Swiss Deli or at another place that I dont remember the name of in Balaclava St at Woolloongabba.
Or you can always go to the portuguese club to get some nice food...

Eu tambem sou portugues e vivo em Brisbane ha cerca de 2 anos e meio e tambem nao descansei enquanto nao encontrei um sitio onde comprar Bacalhau...

Manda-me um email para a seguinte morada se precisares de mais alguma informacao: jopemafi@yahoo.com

At 9:16 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi anon, and thanks for that. I did ask readers about it, but there was no answer. I hope that he was able to find some,knowing how important it is.

At 5:27 pm, Blogger Jess said...

Hi Neil
I like your blog, and especially anything to do with jamon and other Spanish/Mediterranean foods.
How did you cook the morcilla - bake/grill/other?
Would love to learn if there is anyone else out there in Melbourne (or elsewhere)homecuring jamon as I am experimenting.

At 10:58 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi jess, we fried it up, very delicious too. Next time I make gumbo, some is going in. If you go to Suunybrae in my links, you could ask George Biron about it, he knows Angel Cardoso who made jamon commercially and is now retired.

At 11:26 am, Anonymous Marijan Horvat said...

Like to now where to by Portugal's Pursuit in Melbourne?
reply to nuggetzone@gmail.com

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