Where to start with Brasil? 5 times World Cup winners, the darlings of nearly every neutral supporter in the world, sexy football that entertains and at times seizes ones breath, and home to the caipirinha – which has nothing to do with football but I thought I’d throw it in anyway.
Talking about Brasil instantly takes me back to Spain in 1982 and in particular one player that I admired and affectionately remember; a 6ft 4in bearded midfield genius by the name of Sócrates. Sócrates was the footballing maestro in midfield in a team that for me was the true essence of Brasilian football – flair, devastating attacks and scoring goals that must look good. He had an innate ability for accurate and defence splitting passing and had a finish to rival any – I remember the thunderbolt he scored against USSR in that 1982 World Cup. But alas in two attempts (1982 and 1986) Sócrates was never to win a World Cup winner’s medal, something which his younger brother did achieve in 1994. Unfortunately Sócrates’ life was brought to a premature end in 2011 at the age of 57, allegedly from food poisoning. Sócrates will always be Brasil to me and I will always remember him dazzling a wet behind ears 10-year old sat in his bedroom in a little house in Yorkshire back in 1982.
Brasil is now only one game away from the final after a tense and energetic win over Colombia yesterday. Germany is next and I think the winner of this may just win the World Cup.
The bean is an incredibly important part of Brasilian cuisine and nutrition.Take the widely respected national dish of feijoada; a stew of beans with pork and beef; the black bean being the legume in use. In fact the black bean is the most common one to be used in Rio di Janeiro whereas it is only used for feijoada in the rest of the country. The most popular bean throughout Brasil is the feijão carioca which is similar to the pinto bean. After this is a list of really exotic sounding ones in use: Jalo, rosinha, bolinha, fradinho, verde, branco, azuki and roxinho.
With respect to peas, I have never cooked the black-eyed pea before, a staple in the northern region of Brasil. Its origins are in Africa and it is related to the Chinese mung-bean. It is one of the traditional seed-foods that is said to bring 12 months of luck if eaten on the first day of the New Year. Black-eyed peas are versatile in that they don’t require any preliminary soaking in order to be cooked to tenderness within 40 minutes. Saying that, the dish I have cooked requires a good old soaking of that there black-eyed pea – it is the iconic street food of acarajé. Acarajé is a deep fried fritter of the aforementioned pea, flavoured with onion and dried shrimp. I have served it with chilli garlic sauce, but traditionally it is served with pimenta malagueta, a Brazilian pepper sauce. As it takes a month to mature I didn’t have time to make it, however, I have included the recipe.
The recipe for my chilli garlic is here. These also go well with chimichurri.
Serves: 4 | Preparation: 30 minutes + overnight soaking | Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes
For the pimento malagueta:
500g Bird’s-eye chillies | Or even better, malagueta peppers.
250ml White rum or vodka | An inexpensive one as it is used to rinse.
300ml Olive oil |
150ml White wine vinegar |
For the acarajé:
250g Black-eyed peas | Picked through and soaked overnight.
1 Brown onion | Finely chopped.
2 tbsp. Dried shrimp | Brasilian or Chinese – Brasilian shrimp tends to be more salty.
1 pinch Sea salt | If using Brasilian dried shrimp. 2-3 pinches if using Chinese dried shrimp.
Dende oil for frying | Dende is a red oil used in Brasilian cooking (derived from the seed fruit of a dende plant). I used a palm oil with carotene to get the red colour. Plain vegetable oil will also be ok.
For the pimento malagueta: pick through the chillies to ensure there are no bad ones or ones with blemishes. Rinse the chillies with the white spirit and shake them dry – using alcohol cleans the chillies and eliminates surface water which can cause the chilli to rot over time. Pack the chillies in to a sterilised wine bottle or similar container. Pour the oil and vinegar in to the bottle to completely submerge the chillies. The proportion of oil to vinegar should be 2:1, so just maintain that proportion if you need less or more of either. Stopper the bottle and leave for a month to mature. The pepper sauce keeps indefinitely.
For the acarajé: once the black-eyed peas have soaked pick through and remove all of the skins. This is a finicky and time consuming job, but very much worth the effort. Most skins will fall off effortlessly after the soaking.
Heat the dende oil (about 2 inch deep) in a deep frying pan to 180°C.
Put the black-eyed peas, onion, dried shrimp and sea salt in food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste like consistency. Drop a few walnut size balls of batter in to the oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes. Turn over and fry for a further minute. Remove the acarajé from the oil and drain on kitchen towel. Repeat for the rest of the batter. Serve with the garlic chilli, chimichurri or if you have it the pimenta malagueta to be truly Brasilian.