Pastel: Brazil’s Beef Mince Pastry

Pastel: Brazil’s Beef Mince Pastry

I would say that pastel is the Brazilian response to empanada. Although we don’t actually have an empanada like in Argentina or Chile, the filling of beef mince pastel is very similar to the original beef empanadas of those South American countries. The true history of the origin of pastel is not very well documented, but the most accepted theory is that it the inspiration for this recipe came from a Portuguese roll  related to the Chinese spring roll. Pastel was later propagated by the Chinese immigrants who started shops specialised in this snack in the 20s in the state of São Paulo, and then came the Japanese immigrants and descendants who also saw an opportunity with the same kind of business  and started to sell pastel a few years later. Pastel is the king of snacks in Brazilian markets, a true obsession in the South and South-East of the country. In São Paulo city there is even an annual competition to award the best street market pastel. The smell of pastel consumes the markets and it is so tempting that it’s impossible to resist. So if you ever decide to try one there, just be patient with the long queues!  The most common filings are minced beef, cheese, hearts of palm or prawns, but the specialised shops have any flavour you could possibly imagine: salted-cured beef, ham and cheese, four cheese, dried-tomatoes and bococcini, chicken, seafood, etc. The creativity does not stop there; the menu also includes sweet options such as chocolate, banana, apple, dulce de leche and guava paste fillings. The pastry is basically the same for both savoury and...
Coxinha Chicken Fritters

Coxinha Chicken Fritters

Recipe last updated in 31/10/2014 There are many versions of the origin of coxinha but the most accepted is that the delicacy  was invented in end of the XIX century to please one of the sons of our crown Princess Isabel who used to love chicken drumsticks. I am not sure if this is true or not, but coxinha is undeniably our national snack along with pastel (a Brazilian deep-fried pastry – recipe coming soon!). Coxa means drumstick in Portuguese so the name coxinha is related to the shape of the snack which resembles chicken drumsticks. Crunchy on the outside with a moist and flavoursome chicken filling on the inside, coxinhas are found about everywhere you go in Brazil: from little street carts, cafes, bakeries, shopping centers’ food courts, through to grill houses and restaurants. Also, a kid’s birthday party is not complete if there are no coxinhas around and the little ones simply love them probably because they are easy to eat and the flavours are simple. I remember that my mum used to put coxinhas in my lunchbox (yes, even cold they can be still yummy, although I prefer warm). The traditional filling is chicken but over the years other flavours  were created such as chicken and catupiry (Brazilian mild soft cheese), dried cod or prawns. They are incredibly delicious but time-consuming so a tip I give you is to make  it a little bit easier is to prepare the filling one day ahead.  The fact that they  freeze well also helps a lot. Alex Atala created his own version of coxinha for his latest book and Nigella Lawson fell in love with coxinhas when she visited...
Salted Cod (Bacalao) Croquette

Salted Cod (Bacalao) Croquette

This is a classic Portuguese dish that we call our own. It is one of the best ways to eat dried cod and the best croquette in the world. It is quite addictive, that sort of snack you just can’t stop eating. In Brazilian pubs (botecos) this croquette is  beer’s best friend. In Portuguese restaurants the croquettes are served as an entrée. I tried many different recipes over the years, a few recipes even call for eggs and breadcrumbs to coat, which makes it easier to fry. However, the coating jeopardises the distinctive flavour of the dried cod. Remaining as close as possible to the traditional Portuguese simple croquette is the best way to go: potatoes, cod, onion and herbs. I have to agree with Nigella Lawson, it is not easy to make this croquette, the preparation of the cod is really time consuming. Still, the flavour and texture are so special that I urge you to try this at home. The results will speak for themselves. A perfect snack to share with friends while watching the World Cup matches. And  don’t forget that cold beer on the side.    Ingredients  1.5 kg dried cod* 1L milk   400g floury potatoes (such as Desiree or King Edward) 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbs spring onions, finely sliced 1 tbs parsley, finely chopped 1 tbs coriander, finely chopped 1 egg yolk 1 tbs plain flour Freshly ground blackpepper to taste Vegetable or peanut oil for deep-frying Lime or lemon wedges, to serve You need to start this dish 2 days ahead *Available from large delis and Portuguese delis,...
Cassava Chips

Cassava Chips

Also known as yuka or manioc, cassava is a root vegetable from South America that locals have been cultivating and eating for ages. Being the main food of indigenous people of Brazil, cassava was and is eaten in many forms and during the time of the great conquests the Portuguese were responsible for introducing this root in other countries around the world. Some varieties of cassava have high content of cyanide making them extremely poisonous so the indigenous people discovered that after they are harvest they have to be peeled, grated and passed through some kind of big straw sieve where the poisonous juice is then strained. The remaining grated cassava is cooked and stirred for several hours until it is transformed into flour, which is commercialised as plain or toasted. In addition, two types of starch, sweet and sour, can be obtained after the sedimentation of the cassava juices. Made with sour starch, beiju is a kind of crepe eaten all over Brazil (recipe coming soon!). When the starch is still moist, it can be spread onto a large hot pan, where it pops like popcorn resulting in tapioca form. Both cooked cassava and by-products are widely used in Brazil in savoury and sweet dishes. Cooked cassava is commonly served at lunchtime as a side dish, simply seasoned with salt or mashed. After being cooked it can also be deep-fried, it is frequently served in pubs and in the South, along with dried cod fritters, is the ultimate beer snack. Now, should I dare to say that cassava chips are better than potato chips? Frozen cassava is available from large Asian...