The fourth stop in my virtual Around the World in Six Suppers culinary tour finds us in Rio de Janeiro, the party capital of Brazil.
Back in my early 20s, when I was working in a PR agency in Bristol, I went on the jammiest press trip ever. I took some local business journalists all the way to Brazil for almost a week, just to see a fleet of new British Airways aircraft on the production line in Sao Jose dos Campos. We only needed to spend half a day in the factory, but due to flight schedules we had to stay for five days. A real shame that.
After our stint at the factory, our host Embraer put us up at fantastic hotels, firstly in Sao Paulo and then Rio de Janeiro, to make sure we got a really good impression of Brazil. It was incredible. We were wined and dined like royalty. I got to see football in Sao Paulo, sunbathe on Copacabana and Ipanema, hang glide close to Corcovado, take a cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain (imagining I was in a Bond film), dance to Bossa Nova beats in the clubs and drink way too many caipirinhas. I’ve been on many a press trip since but none has ever come close.
And so, to take me back to those days of luxury in Rio and Sao Paulo, I’ve ironically cooked up what actually started out something of a peasant meal, and is now seen by many as Brazil’s national dish. It’s similar to a French cassoulet and is thought to originate from the slaves in Brazil who would cook up big pots of stew from black beans and the parts of the pig the landowners discarded.
It isn’t the prettiest dish in the world, stews rarely are, but it tastes so good. It’s rich and earthy, smoky and very, very satisfying.
Feijoada – Traditional Brazilian Stew
500g dried black beans
2tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
130g smoked sausage – I used kabanos
600g pork ribs, cut into chunks
200g smoked gammon, cut into chunks
5 bay leaves
salt and pepper
Cover the black beans completely in cold water and soak overnight.
Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.
In a large casserole, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions and red pepper until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so before adding the drained black beans, smoked sausage, pork ribs, gammon, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir briefly before covering with cold water and bringing to a gentle simmer.
Cover the casserole with a lid and place in the oven to cook slowly for around two hours, until the meat falls off the bone.
Serve with boiled white rice and sliced spring greens fried with a little chopped onion and garlic. It’s also traditional to serve with slices of orange, but I completely forgot this bit – I can’t say I missed them.