Featured country of the month: Brazil
This month I decided that it was about time that South America was featured. For some time I have had Feijoada noted down as a must try dish and so opted to celebrate the cuisine of Brazil.
About Feijoada is considered to be the national dish of Brazil and so it felt right to start off with this one. The origins of Feijoada are somewhat disputed, but it is generally thought that it started off as a slave’s meal put together from leftover scraps. Many different cuts of pork are used, generally of the lower quality, but in mixing them all together with black beans something special is created. It is now celebrated across the country with myriad regional variations. Feijoada is normally served on a Wednesday or Saturday and is to be enjoyed with a group of friends and / or family - similar to a British Sunday Roast. I followed this recipe.
In returning from the shops on my way to make this dish, the thought went through my head ‘this is definitely the most pig that has ever been in this van at one time’. It is a lot of pork - shoulders, rib, belly, ham hock, chorizo, smoked sausage, pancetta..
I didn’t go quite as traditional as recommended (pig ears and trotters), although I would have if I had been able to source these. The other key ingredient in this dish is black beans - unfortunately I wasn’t able to get dried, so had to make do with tinned. The first step is making the stock from the ham hock - boiling for a few hours the days before the stew is to be made. On the day of making the stew, the process begins a good 4 / 5 hours before actually serving - lots of simmering in order to bring out the best flavours of the pork and the beans. When the stew is ready, it is typically served with ‘farofa’ - toasted cassava flour, or rice. I went with the latter as well as some orange slices and an ice cold Corona.
Did you like it? I loved it. I made a huge amount as was necessitated by the sheer volume of pork cuts and so had leftovers for days following and I have to say that it definitely tasted better the following day. My recommendation for serving this dish would be for when you are having a big gathering and to make the stew the day before - zero effort on the day and improved flavour. Win, win.
Marks out of 10: 9/10
Much like Feijoada, Brigadeiro are a beloved treat across all of Brazil created out of minimal ingredients. The sweet treat became popular in the 1940s and made use of common rations available to people at the time; condensed milk, chocolate powder and butter. Legend has it that women would sell these treats at rallies for the presidential candidate Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, in the first election where women were allowed to vote. How could the ladies resist, with such catchy campaign slogans as “Vote for the brigadier, who’s good-looking and single.” Brigadeiro, perhaps unsurprisingly given his slogan, didn’t win the election but his legacy lives on through these sweet treats.
I had a total nightmare with these. It took me three attempts to get anything even half-way decent looking and even then I wasn’t happy with them. All you have to do to make these is combine condensed milk, chocolate powder and butter in a pan and heat until you get a thick enough consistency - you should be able to stir the spatula through the pan and the mix takes 2-3 seconds to return to its original shape. You then shape them into balls and coat in chocolate sprinkles. On attempt one, I definitely didn’t keep it on the heat for long enough and even after refrigerating the mix for a few hours I had a puddle of chocolate which could hardly be picked up - never mind shaped into a ball.
On attempt two I forgot the butter - because you know, there were so many ingredients to keep track of. I could form balls but they very quickly collapsed into puddles.
On attempt three I ended up with a more solid mixture that I could form into a ball and coat with sprinkles (I had to go with multi colored sprinkles this time as I had run out of the chocolate ones at this point). They looked okay but not my finest work.
I have taken solace from further research revealing that there is a type of Brigadeiro called brigadeiro de colher - "spoon brigadeiro" where you just eat the chocolate sauce out of a tub. Experience tells me this has come about due to similar disasters to mine.
Did you like it?
It was very tasty - however, if in the future I was given a tin of condensed milk and some chocolate powder I’d be more inclined to eat the condensed milk straight up (yes I’ve done this before, haven’t we all?) and make myself a hot chocolate. Don’t think I’ll be going near these again.
Marks out of 10: 4/10
Pão de Queijo
Also known as Brazilian Cheese bread, Pão de Queijo originates from the South East of Brazil where the climate was unsuitable for many types of wheat but tapioca flour was plentiful. The bread did not initially have cheese in it but as the recipe has developed over the years - cheese has become a staple. The use of tapioca means that these little cheese breads are gluten free. They are typically served at breakfast time or as a snack. I followed this recipe.
Continuing the theme of hard-to-shape, round food items - I had slight issues with these initially. The mixture that I made was extremely sticky and did not want to form a round shape. After a bit of researching the issue I discovered that if you let the mix sit for 30 minutes, they become a lot easier to shape. This helped matters and whilst I definitely made them too big - they turned out okay.
Did you like it?
Cheese + bread - I said it before with Khachapuri, but seriously, what is not to love about this combination? The outside should be crispy and you get a lovely stringy, cheesy texture when you pull open the bread. I will definitely be making these again.
Marks out of 10: 9/10