In Brazil lunch is the main meal and when people have time to cook lunch at home, the feast is often comprised of many dishes. The typical Brazilian lunch normally includes rice, beans, a meat dish, potato or cassava chips (check recipe here), salad and pan-fried vegetables. The preparation of so many things makes the lunch really time-consuming so the cooks start really early. First, the patient art of washing, peeling and finely slicing and chopping vegetables begins. When the cooking itself starts it is a festival of pans and pots. The first pan to go to the top of the stove is the pressure cooker with black turtle beans which will cook for about 45 minutes until very soft. In the meantime, pan no. 2 is used to prepare the rice which is fried with a little oil and cooked in boiling water. Pan no. 3 is used to sautee the vegetables with some onions, garlic and olive oil. Pan no. 4 is where the cassava or potato is cooked. Pan no. 5 is a frying pan that will be used to deep-fry the cassava. Are you tired yet? After 5 pans, there is still one to go, which will be used to prepare the cooked beans which are commonly flavoured with sauteed onions, garlic and bay leaves.
For those who don’t have time or don’t feel like cooking but at the same time want to eat meals that taste like home-made there are many great restaurants in Brazil. The most popular ones that serve lunch are called kilo restaurants, which are a type of a smorgasbord buffet where people get charged by how much their food weighs on the plate (hence the name ‘kilo’). These restaurants serve the dishes that all Brazilians expect to have on an everyday basis which are essentially rice, beans and meat along with many other options of home-style meals such as farofa (Brazilian crumb), salads, pies, sautéed vegetables and pasta dishes.
Picadinho is how we call our beef stew and is a typical lunch dish. The dish has countless versions, but the basic recipe calls for onions, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and beef and instead of pasta or polenta we prefer to have our stew with rice. The name picadinho translates as ‘little cubes’ and relates to the way the beef is chopped: into very tiny cubes. Practical and delicious at the same time, this iconic Brazilian dish is a great way to use a secondary cut of beef.
Here I propose you eat picadinho with rice (of course!) and a warm salad which provides a good balance to the meal. My salad is made with beautiful seasonal asparagus, baby beets, beetroot leaves, baby turnips and some micro greens I’ve found today at the Hill Street Grocers. Colourful, crunchy and delicious radishini and pea tendrils grown here in Tasmania – as I always say the place to be for fresh vegetables. They add a special touch to the salad, but if you cannot find them, snow pea or alfafa sprouts will also do the trick. Try to find the freshest of beetroots with equally fresh and crisp leaves. Beetroot leaves have a very nice taste and are just yummy in salads or healthy smoothies so whenever you get a chance to buy them fresh don’t throw them away!
Today was very challenging to take the picture of my picadinho and accompaniments. I was planning to do an outdoor shoot but it was too sunny, which made it impossible. Then in my favourite part of the house where I set up my improvised studio the natural light was way too low. After many adjustments on the camera and a little bit of post editing I finally managed to pick two pictures that I like, the overhead shot (above) and below the meal from a different angle.
Beef Cubes ‘Picadinho’:
1 kg secondary beef cut (like gravy beef or chuck)
4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green capsicum, deseeded, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, peeled, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbs tomato paste
1 rosemary sprig
2 bay leaves
250ml good-quality beef stock
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup long grain or basmati rice
Warm Asparagus, Beetroot and Turnip Salad:
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch baby beets, leaves included
1 bunch baby turnips
1 box radishini
1 box pea tendrils
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
1. For the beef, using a sharp knife remove all the fat and chop the beef very finely. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry over medium heat stirring for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the capsicum and fry, stirring, for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cayenne pepper (if using), tomato paste, rosemary, bay leaves and beef and stir until beef changes colour. Add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, close the pan and cook for about 1.5 hours (or until meat is soft) stirring occasionally. Once meat is soft, season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook stirring for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the parsley.
2. For the rice, wash the rice well and drain. Bring some water to the boil. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and fry the onions stirring for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes until all grains are covered with oil. Reduce the heat to low, add 1 cup boiling water, season with salt to taste, cover the pan and cook without opening the lid for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it covered for at least 5 minutes or until ready to serve.
3. For the warm salad, wash the vegetables well. Peel the asparagus. Cut the beetroots and turnips leaving about 3 cm of stalk. Reserve the beetroot leaves. Steam the aspargus and turnips for 3 minutes. Remove from steamer and place them in a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking process. Cook the beetroots for about 5 minutes or until soft. Place them in a separate bowl with iced water and then carefully peel. Heat the oil over medium heat, fry the garlic for 2 minutes, add the asparagus, turnips and beetroot leaves and stir for a further 2 minutes. Transfer the warm vegetables and all the pan juices and garlic oil, to a bowl, add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the seasoned vegetables onto a plate and garnish with beetroots and micro greens.