When You Don't Know the Ingredients

06 January 2023

This is the story on how whipped cream and cocoa powder have stressed me over the last two weeks. I hope that that is a seemingly weird enough sentence to keep you on reading. Or not. If you don’t want to keep going, it’s also fine. But let me tell you more.

I’m Portuguese and I’ve lived my first 20-ish years in Portugal. Therefore, it means I have cooked and baked in Portugal, with… of course… Portuguese ingredients. I know how they behave and I know what to expect. Since two years ago, I moved to The Netherlands. And, even though most things are fine, sometimes I get very annoyed because I want to cook x or y but the ingredients are either unavailable, or they are not exactly the same.

πŸ™ The Octopus

Before going into whipped cream and chocolate - did you mean cocoa? - powder, I want to tell the story that happened last year. I told my friends here that I was going to cook them “Polvo Γ  Lagareiro”, which is a very nice octopus dish. For it, you need a 1kg to 2.5kg octopus, depending on how many people you’re cooking for.

I called a few fish shops in Eindhoven - because the supermarkets barely sell any fish in the Netherlands - and no one had octopus. So I decided to order. The website clearly stated 1.5kg. What I missed is that it wasn’t a single octopus, but a collection of baby octopus’. I was flabbergasted. I even thought it was illegal to fish such small animals. I cooked with them, but it definitely wasn’t as good, because you want fat legs, which clearly baby octopus’ don’t have.

🍫 The Chocolate Powder

Then the powder. In Portugal we have a thing called Chocolate Powder, which is used in many dessert recipes. Here there’s only Cocoa Powder. And no, they are different. My partner didn’t believe we had chocolate powder, but we do (see image below).

Chocolate Powder
Chocolate Powder
Chocolate-covered Carrot Cake
Chocolate-covered Carrot Cake

After a bit of investigation, I basically just mixed more sugar in with the cocoa powder to get the effect of the chocolate powder, but it still wasn’t as good because sugar is not all that the chocolate powder has. Either way, as you can see by the picture, the chocolate-covered carrot cake was a success. Around 5 people tried it and everyone loved it.

🍦 The Whipped Cream

Now, the star of the day: the whipped cream. I promised my friends I was going to make a Lime Mousse for them tomorrow, as they as visiting my new place since we got furniture and… floor. So I bought all the ingredients: gelatine sheets, limes, condensed milk, and the heavy cream. All was fine. Until I started.

Firstly, the gelatine sheets are so tiny here. I had to double the amount. But that was fine. But then the heavy cream. First of all, I bought the UHT package and I forgot to cool it down. You know what that means? It became cheese before becoming whipped cream. Then, I went to the supermarket, but, with my awful knowledge of the Dutch language, I bought heavy cream, already whipped. To be fair, the word is the same in Dutch: slagroom. There was just some additional word in a fancy font there to say it was already whipped.

I gave up. Almost. I decided to order from this fast delivery service, which I really don’t like. However, I don’t think that a fast visit to the supermarket would be great for my feet at this moment. I bought the correct heavy cream, the fresh version as it already comes cold. It arrived 40 minutes later than they said.

I whipped it. Looked nice, for a while. It wasn’t growing as much as I wanted, but it was already tiff. I knew that if I continued, I would get cheese πŸ§€ instead. I mixed the ingredients and put it in the fridge. It tastes good, I checked, but the volume is super low. I then went search and it seems that the Portuguese heavy cream has emulsifier added onto it, to help with gaining volume. In the Netherlands it doesn’t. That is literally the only difference in ingredients. Now, I have a very dense mousse.

πŸ₯› The Condensed Milk (Bonus)

If you arrived here, congratulations. I will give you another quick story: the condensed milk. We have this dessert in Portugal called “Baba de Camelo”, which literally translates to “Camel’s Drool”. I know, disgusting, yet very good. This dessert calls for cooked condensed milk. That is something you find in the supermarkets in Portugal, but not here. Here you have to buy the normal condensed milk, cook it for 3 hours and hope the can doesn’t explode - because it can. Because you have to cook it inside the can, and there is always the possibility the can will explode!

Cooked Condensed Milk
Cooked Condensed Milk
Baba de Camelo
Baba de Camelo

I’ve made it a few times for my friends and, after a few hours of boiling a condensed milk can, I get an extremely delicious cooked condensed milk to mix with the remaining ingredients. It’s a very good dessert, I recommend.


You may wonder: aren’t there Portuguese stores in The Netherlands? Yes, there are. But very very few. While there are hundreds of supermarkets from other countries, there are no real Portuguese supermarkets here. There is this online store based in Rotterdam, or a physical store in a little village next to Eindhoven.

And yes, both this stores sell all the ingredients I mentioned above, including the octopus. I now know where to buy them! However, it requires planning. It’s not something I can just think of doing and getting the ingredients immediately. It takes time, and it can be frustrating!

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