Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brazil

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.

Feijoada

Ingredients

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
Garlic
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.

Directions

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.





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