Brazil is nuts!… Not really, I just wanted to use that pun.

September 15, 2015

image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

Do you hear that?! It’s getting closer… My God! Your hips… why are they moving like that… it must be… The Samba! Phew, don’t be alarmed, we are just in Brazil and that reaction is perfectly normal, I think.

Brazil is a huge country with a lot of people (5th in population and 5th in area), and although one of the largest energy consumers in the world, much of their power comes from renewable sources, including the largest hydroelectric plant in the world (Itaipu Dam). I’m going to assume you know basic facts like that it is the only South American country to speak Portuguese. Let’s start with a different part of its founding instead. So… which Age of Discovery conquistador claimed Brazil for Portugal? Henry the Navigator? Magellan? Da Gama? Nope… Pedro Álvares Cabral. Exactly, I have no idea who that is either. He was your run of the mill nobleman, military commander, explorer of the time, who was on the heels of Da Gama’s newly found route around Africa. In 1500, he took his fleet further West and discovered what is today Brazil. He has the distinction of possibly being the first human to touch four continents. To settle the claiming of South America between Spain and Portugal, the Pope famously drew a line down the middle, and the land to the East (Brazil) went to Portugal.

Unless you are a trivia buff or just memorized all the world capitals for no good reason, it may surprise you that Rio de Janeiro is not the capital. However, it was the temporary capital of Portugal after 1808 when the royal family fled Lisbon ahead of Napoleon’s invasion. Since 1960, Brasilia has been the capital, a city built at great expense for just this purpose.

When it comes to eating in Brazil, they love their beef. They overtook Australia as the leading beef exporter in 2003 and were only passed this year by India (yes…I know, India… apparently, India exports mostly buffalo which counts as beef in the rankings, but still). So you will be shocked I’m sure to find, not only no beef in my recipe, but no meat at all! This was a bit of a turn for me, but I feel like these dishes gave me a chance to alter the common image of Brazil.

So I made a creamy yam soup that actually does not have any cream in it, and what is affectionately referred to as “tasty sawdust”: Farofa. The yam or sweet potato soup is straight forward and delicious. By blending the yam all the way to the point of puree, the starchiness thickens the dish so there is no need for dairy. The Farofa… is interesting. That is really an understatement but true none-the-less. It is extremely dry and sticks in your throat, the flavor and texture are fascinating though. By using tapioca flour, it absorbs all the moisture from the butter, egg, and onion making a unique kind of paste. I took the dish a step further to farofa tropeiro by adding in some black beans. I’m glad we made it and it did taste good but I’m not sure I will ever get the feeling of that texture out of my mouth. But still, I encourage you to give it a try because you might get something different out of the experience and that is why we are all here in the first place.

I will see you next time in Brunei… the go-to place when you absolutley, positively need a Sultan immediately.

 

  


 

Creamy Yam Soup (Sopa de Cará)

6 servings

Ingredients:

1 lb yam or sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed
6 cups beef stock (or vegetable stock))
3 Tbsp Italian parsley (optional)

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Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil, then add the chunks of yam and cook for five minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook for about three minutes, or until the onions are soft and starting to become clear. Add the stock, bring to a very slow boil, and cook until the yams are very soft and tender.

Rremove the yam chunks from the broth. Using a potato masher, puree the yam completely, then stir the puree back into the broth. Add the cubes of tomato and cook for a five minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup stand on the stove for about 3 minutes, then serve in bowls or mugs, sprinkling chopped parsley on the surface if desired.

_____________________________________

Farofa

6 servings

Ingredients:

Black Beans (optional)
1 onion
7 oz. tapioca/cassava flour
2 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs

——————————————

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium-hot pan, then fry the onion.
  2. Add the egg and mix for a moment or two.
  3. As the egg scrambles, add in the flour and mix well to make sure everything is buttery.
  4. Cook for a minute or two then remove from the heat.
  5. Season with salt.

 

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