Tired of cooking the same handful of meals each week, I enrolled on an international cookery course.
The course may have ended, but it's just whetted my appetite....

Join me on a weekly visit to the cuisines of the world, countries from A to Z, and back again!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

B is for Brazil

Where we're going this evening - BRAZIL

Tonight we are off to Brazil, the largest country in South America.  Home of the Amazon Rainforest, 200 million people; 4,500 miles of coastline and the most exciting football team in the world.

We've not even mentioned the Girl from Ipanema or the world famous Rio carnival; coffee and oranges; author Paolo Coelho and colourful ex-president Lula.

It's an exciting emerging world power, with vast natural resources, six time zones and the greatest variety of animal species in the world.

So samba on down with me as we experience a taste of the exotic...

Tonight's Menu...

The national dish of Brazil is Feijoada, a meat and bean stew - a real project of a dish taking all day to slowly cook in a heavy pot.  I've opted for a fish dish instead, from Bahia, a large state (about the size of France) on the Atlantic coast.  It draws on African origins, and although it is often served with patties or fritters made with mashed beans, it is also served with rice.

I'm also making Brigadeiros - chocolate truffles named after Eduado Gomes, an important military and political figure in the middle of the 20th century.  The reason why you'd name a sweet after an Air Marshall eludes me, even after some research - it seems to be that at a time of national food shortages after the second world war, some cooks took the newly available imported Nestlé products of condensed milk and cocoa powder, made truffles with them and called them after the nearest good looking chap. Bit like naming a new cake after Tony Blair (if you're into that sort of thing) - I can't see it catching on, myself.

Vatapá - recipe is from the About.com website (with other research from other websites)

Fry chopped onion, chili & garlic then add ground cashew & peanuts.  When golden, add bread which has been soaked in coconut milk and fish stock.  Bubble gently for a few minutes until thickened, then stir in cooked prawns and warm through.

Brazilian Rice - recipe is from the About.com website

Fry chopped onion, tomato and garlic in a pan till transluscent and fragrant.  Add rinsed rice and twice the volume of water or stock (I used left over fish stock & water) and cover.  Once virtually cooked, take from heat and cover with a tea towel for five minutes. Serve with the vatapá & garnish with chopped parsley.

Brigadeiros recipe is from the About.com website

Put condensed milk, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt into a pan and stir constantly over a low heat for 10-15 mins until the mixture is glossy and thick (note: this is extremely boring).  Cool, then pinch off portions and roll to make 1" balls.  Roll in chocolate strands. (note: a quick dunk in water makes the chocolate strands stick well to the balls).

The Result

And what have we learnt? 

  • that this round the world thing is definitely a GREAT IDEA!
  • even complicated recipes with loads of ingredients are not difficult to get your head round if you do all the prep at the start.  Prep for complicated recipes does involve using every bowl/cup/chopping board in the kitchen at least once
  • Cats who love prawns are only dissuaded from the worktop by being locked out of the house to peep through the catflap and mew piteously
  • innovations in food production and packaging mean that condensed milk is now sold in squeezy tubes, like primula cheese or toothpaste - amazing!
  • chocolate strands are not a static commodity

And out of 10?

  • for the vatapa - a reasonable 6/10 - the nut/bread/coconut mixture is a bit on the gloopy side - tastes nice, looks not great
  • for the rice - a solid 7/10 - no frills, can't go far wrong with anything involving fried onions
  • for the Brigadieros - a chocolaty 7/10 - bit solid, but fudge-like and good looking enough to be given as presents come Christmas.

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