Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Brasil or Brazil? I never really understood why English speaking countries insist on using the letter 'Z' while Brazilians use the letter 'S'. Most sources agree that 'Brasil' is correct in Portuguese, while 'Brazil' is correct in English. To test this theory I used Google translate, and lo and behold this turned out to be correct. It still seems an unnecessary distinction to make though. It is not as if we of the English speaking world lack the letter 'S', although "American English" speakers are known for using a 'Z' in place of an 'S' so perhaps I can blame them for this confusion. It appears not. After further digging, I found that the country was named after the Brazilwood tree, which in Portuguese, is called Pau-Brasil so I can see how the variation first arose. In fact, the correct Portuguese spelling was not actually settled on until 1945, when Brazil and Portugal met and determined that 'Brasil' would be the correct spelling in the Orthographic Vocabulary of Portuguese Language. So do I use 'Brasil', lest I attract the wrath of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (the institution charged with enforcing orthographic normality), because you don't' want to foder with those guys? Too hard...Brazil it is.

Having traveled to Brazil, it became apparent that the cuisine is quite varied depending on the region, however one 'dish' is ubiquitous throughout the entire nation: caipirinha. This is undoubtedly the national drink of Brazil. Traditionaly this is made by taking a very generous amount of a Brazilian cane spirit called Cahcaça, and muddling with lime and raw sugar. It is ridiculously good and will get most people drunk enough to attempt the samba, inevitably leading to injury (at least it had that effect on me). Another culinary oddity was that Brazilians serve cake for breakfast...chocolate cake! Has Bill Cosby been there? This isn't the only evidence of a sweet obsession. They snack on tubes of pure caramelised sugar called doce de elite. So do they eat anything with any nutritional value? Indeed they do my friend: Feijoada. Originally a Portugese dish, the Feijoada has become the national dish of Brazil. The name comes from the Portugese word for beans, with the suffix 'ada' (similar to the use in limonada for the English lemonade). Therfore a literal English translation would be bean-ade...sounds delicious doesn't it! The recipe was developed by slaves who were given the cuts of meat that their masters wouldn't eat - pigs ears, tails, and feet, which they would stew with black beans. Unfortunately in this case I have to side with the slavers and leave out the trimmings. Even so this was delicious.



1kg of varied pork sausages (prefer smoked sausages e.g. chorizo)
400g of pork tenderloin
2 or 3 slices of bacon
1kg (2 cans) Black beans
Diced onion
6 Bay leaves
Small red chillies (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Olive oil

Note: The measurements were very vague with this recipe so take some liberty with how much you use.


Add beans, meat, salt, garlic chilli (if using) and bay leaves to a large pot. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 hours.

Separately, sauté onion and garlic in oil until softened and add to the pot. Cook for another 15 minutes.

That's it! I think this is impossible to get this one wrong. You can use more or less meat, or indeed different meat including smoked or dried beef, different cuts of pork (of course the trimmings) etc. You can add more or less onion and or garlic. I feel that in Brazil, this is one of those recipes that everyone has a variation on, and no doubt Avó makes it best.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Once again I have neglected my blog. When people ask me what country I am up to they invariably laugh that I am still in the B's. In my defence, there are a LOT of nations beginning with B, including of course Botswana.

The land surface of Botswana is 70% covered by the Kalahari Desert. The people of this semi-arid savanna are, by necessity, an extremely resourceful people who make use of what the gods provide. For instance if the gods saw fit to gift an empty coke bottle to their chosen people, the Kalihari Bushmen would see not trash, but a grindstone, a musical instrument, or a paining tool. Such are the ways of these people. While the Bushmen of the Kalahari may be the most famous of the Botswana people, it is the 'Batswana' or 'Tswana' people that make up over 80% of the population, and for whom the country is named. 

Prior to European rule, these people lived as herders and farmers in numerous different tribes. Like the rest of Africa however, this was destined to change. In 1885 the British established the 'Bechuanaland Protectorate' after appeals by King Khama III, chief of the Bamangwato, a large Batswana tribe, to provide support against his enemies. After surviving several assassination attempts by his own father Sekgoma, and ultimately defeating him in a war for the chieftainship, Khama wanted to hang on to his rule. With incursions coming from the Boers in the south, Ndebele from what is now Zimbabwe in the north, and German colonists in the west, Khama aligned himself with British colonial interests and secured British protection for his territories. The existence of modern day Botswana is largely due to the efforts of Khama, who went so far as to travel to England to petition against Cecil Rhodes himself, who wanted to make the protectorate a colony open to white settlement. Khama was successful, and ultimately the Republic of Botswana was established in 1966 after a period of British protectorship. Khama's lineage continues to rule modern Botswana, with his great-grandson Seretse Khama Ian Khama holding power since 2008.

Economically, Botswana is one of the success stories in Africa. The nation has one of the fastest per capita growth rates in the world, and one of the highest levels of economic freedom in Africa. They also boast one of the least corrupt governments in Africa. Despite this economic success, Botswana is experiencing one of, if not the worst HIV/Aids epidemics in the world. Almost a quarter of 15-49 year olds are HIV positive, and I was astounded to discover that the life expectancy at birth has plummeted from 65 to 35!

With the frightening spectre of the HIV epidemic, and the optimism of economic prosperity, the people of Botswana must be experiencing such a unique, and at times contradictory way of life that western stereotypes of Africa fail to comprehend. The BBC and HBO recently sought to dispel the common African stereotype with their comedy/ drama series,  'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency'. This was the first major television or film production to be set and filmed in Botswana ('The Gods Must Be Crazy, while set in Botswana, was filmed in South Africa), and according to producers, the show attempts to present a modern, relatively prosperous African nation to a large audience, and do justice to the people of Botswana. While I am yet to see the show, I certainly intend on seeing what is hopefully an accurate (albeit comedic) portrayal of life in a southern African city.

Botswanan, like other southern African cuisine, is known as 'Rainbow Cuisine' as it adopts many cultural influences from Europe and Asia. Thankfully this meant I could find the required ingredients in my local supermarket. I was sceptical about finding a supply of Mopane worm, a popular delicacy cooked in hot ashes. Interestingly though, the watermelon is thought to have originated in Botswana; a fact I discovered after already preparing this supposed Botswanan version of groundnut stew. The groundnut (which comes from west Africa) is replaced here by the peanut (native to Peru) so I am hopeful that this dish falls under the banner of Botswanan rainbow cuisine and I can move on the the next B on the list.

(Botswanan) Groundnut Stew


500g Diced Chicken breast
1 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1 Onion, chopped.
1 Green capsicum, chopped 
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Peanut butter
1 Can Tomato paste
1 Tsp Grated fresh ginger root
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Pinch of ground red pepper


In a bowl, combine the sugar, red pepper, ginger, peanut butter, and tomato paste. Slowly stir in the water, a small amount at a time, until the sauce is smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, cooking 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent. Add cut-up chicken and capsicum. Cook until the chicken and the onion are browned.

Pour in the peanut sauce and stir well. Cover the pot simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

To serve, spoon stew over rice balls (cooked white rice that is mashed and formed into balls), or on a bed of white rice.

This very simple dish was surprisingly delicious and was served with sautéed spinach leaves (to substitute native African greens).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bosnia & Herzegovina

I have just come back from the Christmas break, and while Foodysseus may have been ignored for the better part of a month, I have certainly been busy sampling food, drink, and more food from around the world (unfortunately for the waistline, cheese was a major ingredient). So I am getting back into the swing of things with my second visit to the Balkans. This region is fast becoming a favourite of mine and Bosnia and Herzigovina has served up a treat.

I know little of B & H and much of what I do comes from growing up during the Bosnian wars of the 1990s. As a 10 year old, you don't pay much attention to wars happening on the other side of the world, so I am still not entirely sure about who was fighting who and why. Still, upon hearing the name Bosnia and Herzegovina, I recall images of shelled streets, muddy refugees, and mass graves (it also conjures images of Eva Herzigova in a wonder bra so it's not all bad). Even before the wars of the 1990's, B & H had a tumultuous history. The nation was once part of the Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires before becoming part of the Kingdom of Serbia. In 1914, Sarajevo, the capital city of B & H, was the location of the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This event, in simple terms, is seen as the trigger that began World War I.

Essentially, the Austro-Hungarians were unhappy about their heir presumptive being blown up, and issued a letter to the Kingdom of Serbia (later Yugoslavia) with a number of demands. The Serbs were not cowed and mobilised their armies with the support of the Russians. The Austro-Hungarians then declared war which set off a domino effect of treaties. The Triple Alliance brought Germany and Italy into the fray for Austro-Hungary, while the Triple Entente dragged Britain and France in for the Russians.

After the wars, the region was part of communist Yugoslavia, and didn't gain independence until 1992. This was followed by 3 years of the confusing Balkan wars of my childhood memory. Since the end of the conflict B & H has seen a resurgence in tourism. There are some beautiful natural and architectural sites, world class ski fields (Sarajevo hosted the 1984 winter olympics), as well as the vibrant city of Sarajevo itself which has earned the nickname of 'Jerusalem of Europe' for it's multiculturalism. In fact the Virgin Mary herself is a frequent visitor to the B & H town of Medjugorje, appearing to six local Catholics at a set time every month, and sparking a pilgrimage of over 30 million people since 1981. Visitors often experience visions such as the sun spinning in the sky or changing colors and figures such as hearts and crosses around the sun. Now I don't want to discredit the believers, but someone should be checking which kind of mushrooms they are serving in their goulash.

Speaking of food (segue five!) this recipe was a winner. The cevapi (cha-vah-pee) is considered the national dish of B & H, and is a type of kebab with grilled mince meat. It is often served with Kajmak, a popular Bosnian cheese spread, and Avjar, an eggplant and capsicum relish.



500g Lean ground beef
500g Lean ground lamb 
1 Yellow onion, finely chopped
3 Large cloves garlic, diced
4-5 Sprigs finally chopped parsley
1/4 Cup Hot water
1/2 Tsp Baking soda
Salt and Pepper to taste


Mix the meat, onion, garlic, and parsley in a bowl with the salt and pepper.

Add the baking soda to the water and then gently combine with the meat. It should remain course and loosely packed.

Put the meat mixture back in the fridge and let it sit for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible. Once the meat has tenderised, pick of into little sausages about the size of a thumb. Cook under a grill until they are a deep brown colour.



1 1/2 Sticks salted butter (one stick is 1/4 pound or about 115g)
2 Tbsp Sour cream
4 Tbsp Ricotta cheese
250g (approx) Cream cheese


Soften the butter and cream cheese, then beat with electric mixer. Add the sour cream and ricotta to the butter and beat it until it’s creamy. Salt, hot sauce or paprika may be added if 



2 Large eggplants
6 Red Capsicum
1 Sweet onion (brushed in oil)
2-3 Cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
1/2 Cup Olive oil

Note: Parsley, basil, or chilli flakes can be added as a variation


Roast eggplant and onion at 250 c for about 30 min, turning until skin blackens and blisters. Once roasted, put in a bowl and cover with cling wrap to let steam and loosen the skins. Peel off the skin and discard, along with the seeds.

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend to desired consistency.

Wrap the Cevapi in pita bread and add the Ajvar and Kajmak, along with chopped red onion and desired salads.

Apologies for the less than stellar photography.