There are dishes that come in remembrance of a place. Things like pigeon pastillas from Marrakech, fish tacos from Baja, and coconut tapioca for Phi Phi Island. In fact, there are probably enough of them to make up a book (which is now available for pre order from Amazon).
And then there are dishes you make in anticipation of an adventure.
Yesterday was a good day. I booked two flights to Rio. I may have even been tapping my toes along to ‘Copacabana’ and ‘Girl from Ipanema’ the whole time I was doing it.
For those who feel like saying we’re incorrigible, I’ll take it on the chin. We know. We’ve slipped far too easily into planning an escape from the bleak frosts of a British January. There was a late insertion into the semi-famed Baby Bucket List – and Rio is it.
There’ll be a visit to a few folks in New York first and perhaps we’ll see New Year in with novelty hats in Panama. And then it’s Rio’s turn.
To celebrate I turned to the most famed of Brazilian dishes; feijoada.
Feijoada is a Portuguese- based slow cooked meat and bean stew. In Brazil it relies on black beans and was traditionally made up of the bits of the pig that the slave owners discarded as scrap.
There sometimes is beef present as well, usually salted or preserved. It’s often served with rice, parsley, hot sauce, collard greens and some sneaky slices of orange.
This is food to feed a crowd. And the below version has fed this house for a few days now, growing gutsier each day. Instead of trotters and snouts and hocks I went for a few other bits of the pig. There’s some chorizo for spice. There’s some strips of bacon for smoke and salt. I browned and tumbled some rough chunks of pork shoulder and two pork sausages for extra texture. As for the beef component, I went with short ribs. The bones give some ballast to the braise and after some slow cooking with the beans the meat just flops off the bone. There’s also diced onion, bay and garlic, but the two real heroes in this version are the beans and some sly strips of orange zest.
You could do the meats on their own and just tumble in some drained tins of black beans an hour or so before serving. But by cooking the beans along with the meat they invite the other flavours into their core. I’m not the kind of person who remembers to soak beans the night before I cook something, so once again I’ve relied on a ‘quick cook’ method (if two hours counts as ‘quick’). Rinse the beans, then place in plenty of water and bring it to a vigorous boil. Clamp on a lid and leave it for two hours. Then I drain and cook them as if I’ve soaked them for a day.
As for the stripes of orange zest as it cooks? They just impart a smile of warmth, a suggestion of sunshine in what can be a pit-dark stew. We omitted the rice on the side (in fact, this would be another excellent addition to the canon of slow/low carb comfort suppers) and served it out of bowls with wilted spinach, segments of orange, chilli – and because we’re cheesy like this- chopped Brazil nuts on the top.
It may have been a bleak night in London, but there was sunshine at our table. Or at least, the promise of some more sometime very soon.
Serves 6, but if you served with quinoa or rice it could stretch to 10.
Nb, you could easily swap the meats around- substitute the beef short ribs for pork ribs and add some beef shin instead of pork shoulder. Once you’ve done the browning of the meats and added everything in together, this is an exceptionally low maintenance stew that can be left to its own devices until just before serving.
1 x Dutch oven. 1 fry pan. 1 vegetable peeler/speed peeler.
400 grams of dried black beans, or 4x 400 gram tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 rashers of smoked bacon, cut into slivers
70 grams of chorizo, cut into small dice
2 brown onions, peeled and cut into dice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
pinch of chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
1 orange, with two band-aid long strips of zest removed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 kg of beef short ribs
300 grams of pork shoulder, diced
2 pork sausages, pricked with a fork
Hot water, to cover
To serve: wilted spinach and greens, diced parsley, chilli, segments of orange and chopped Brazil nuts. Hot sauce and rice/quinoa optional.
1. Seven hours before you plan to eat, or two hours before you want to start to cook you rely fall on the ‘quick cook/no soak’ way to prepare dried black beans. If you’ve remembered to soak your beans overnight, then you can just drain the water and start cooking the recipe from step two. If you’re like me and never plan that far ahead you can still use dried black beans. First, rinse them well. Then place them in a pot with water, bring it up to the boil and boil vigorously for two minutes. Then clamp the lid on and turn off the heat. After two hours drain the water and rinse. You can start cooking with them now.
2. Take a large fry pan and place the bacon and chorizo over a medium heat and fry to render out some of their fat. Add the diced onion, garlic, chilli flakes, bay leaves and orange zest and sautee until the onion is softened.
2. Add the olive oil into a heavy bottomed casserole dish/ Dutch oven and brown the beef ribs in batches, ensuring that you get a good deep tan on all sides. Also brown the pricked sausages and the pieces of pork.
3. If using pre soaked dried beans add them to the Dutch oven now and use any liquid clinging to them to help scrape up any flavour that’s clinging to the bottom of the pot. Layer the meat over the top of the beans.
4. Transfer the onion, bacon, garlic, chorizo, orange zest, chilli and bay leaves into the large pot. Add enough hot water to just cover all the meat.
5. Bring the contents of the pot up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, clamp on the lid and cook for three – five hours. You want the ribs to be falling off the bone, the sausages to easily fork apart into chunks, the beans cooked through and the sauce to be dark and rich. If you’re using tinned beans, add them after the meats have cooked for three hours and warm them through.
6. If there is too much liquid in the pot cook with the lid off at a simmer for a while to help reduce. You want it to have more of a stew, not soup consistency.
7. Serve the feijoada with wilted greens, segments of orange, parsley, some Brazil nuts for crunch and some chilli and hot sauce if you like a kick.