Bacalao-Stuffed Petit Capsicums with Tapenade Dressing

Bacalao-Stuffed Petit Capsicums with Tapenade Dressing

The times of the great maritime discoveries were very beneficial to the culinary world. The spice trade that had started in ancient times between North Africa, Europe and India intensified after the discovery of the Americas making some spices worth more in weight than gold. Spices were used for many applications however in Europe their main use was to either preserve or enhance the flavour of foods. In the 15th century Portugal stood out as a powerful maritime nation even though it was also being affected by the crisis that hit Western Europe. The geographic location of Portugal was favourable to navigation and its kingdom was less prone to disputes and conflicts than say England, Spain or France. In addition, many classes and entities in Portugal had a high degree of interest in pushing for the search of new lands for various reasons. For the commoners being able to move to another part of the world was a chance to improve their living conditions. For the kingdom of Portugal it was an opportunity to overcome the crisis by increasing their resources. The nobility was also very supportive of possible new discoveries as there would be more chances to get promoted or rewarded. During the Age of Discoveries, the Portuguese were the first to circumnavigate Africa. Then in 1500 they arrived in the coast of Brazil to explore a land of abundant resources such as minerals, exotic plants and fruits. The Portuguese took advantage of this and were responsible for introducing many produce from South America to the world such as chilli and cassava root. They also brought their cooking techniques and tastes...
‘Romeo and Juliet’ Goat’s Cheese and Guava Paste Panna Cotta

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Goat’s Cheese and Guava Paste Panna Cotta

Who doesn’t know the tale of Romeo and Juliet? The tragic story of two young lovers who are unable to maintain a relationship and their ultimate death change the lives of their families forever. Romeo and Juliet is an Italian tale that was firstly introduced to the English world in a form of poem and prose before being adapted as a play by William Shakespeare. Over the years, the story has been adapted and told various times in plays, movies, musicals and opera. In addition, Romeo and Juliet’s moments were depicted in dozens of paintings and illustrations, including many by notorious painter Salvador Dali (click here), and in the graceful sculpture of the couple in Manhattan’s Central Park (click here to see the sculpture). In Brazil Romeo and Juliet’s tale ended up in the kitchen and is the name given to the delicious cheese and guava paste duo in which the cheese represents Romeo and Juliet is the guava paste. Guava paste is a Brazilian preserve made with red guava and sugar with a consistency similar to a fig paste.  Traditionally this sweet and sticky paste is eaten with the salty and rubbery Minas’ cheese making the Brazilians’ eyes roll with delight followed by a finger-leaking moment. I must say that I love the names given to dishes in Brazil, they are so creative! The name Romeo and Juliet was given because, like the young couple, cheese and guava paste are soul mates (in this case of flavour). What started as a simple combination became a national fever and like Romeo and Juliet’s story, the cheese and guava paste theme...
Avocado Ice-Cream with Cashew Nut Brittle

Avocado Ice-Cream with Cashew Nut Brittle

The creamy and buttery Avocado is a fruit native to Central America and Mexico. Avocados are a great healthy food choice for being source of many vitamins, minerals and good fats while providing relatively low calories. The neutral flavour of Avocado makes the fruit very easy to use in all sorts of recipes from savoury to sweet. In many instances avocados are added to  salsas such as the popular guacamole, when is mixed with onions, lime and coriander and served as an accompaniment to spicy Mexican dishes. They also make great addition to salads and are good match with many vegetables for example lettuce, cucumber, capsicum, tomato and peas. Blend some avocado with lime, cumin, ground chilli and vegetable stock and you will have a beautiful cold summer soup. Add avocado to your sushi filling along with raw tuna, cucumber and black sesame seeds. Roughly mash the avocado and use it as a healthy spread option in your favourite sandwich. In Australia is quite common to add avocado in chicken salads, which is also a great combination. Another avocado recipe that I just love and is a match made in heaven is the prawn and avocado cocktail – definitely one of those recipes you should try before you die. Differently from the other South American countries, in Brazil we prefer to use avocados in desserts and not in savoury dishes. With the Mexican food fever that started many years ago in Brazil this trend is slowly changing, but when I was a child I found it very strange that countries like Chile, Mexico and Argentina used avocado to make salads. This is because I grew up eating avocado on its skin, roughly...
Pineapple and Chilli Caipiroska

Pineapple and Chilli Caipiroska

Today’s recipe is about two super versatile South Americans: pineapple and chilli. Native from Brazil and Paraguay, pineapple is that gorgeous tropical fruit that looks like a large pine cone with a green crown on top… and that Aussies love to have in their burger! With a delightful aroma and rich in vitamin C pineapple is great on its own as a healthy snack option. There are so many ways to use pineapple in the kitchen such as adding them in fruit salads or made into a variety of cold desserts such as ice creams, sorbets, trifles, custards or mousses. Pineapple fritters and caramelised pineapple are great options if you like warm desserts. Camelo (camel) is how we call in Brazil the barbecued pineapple, which is just peeled and covered in cinnamon, skewered on a wooden stick and place it over the charcoal barbecue to caramelise and add that special smoky flavour. Pineapple can also be used in baking and be added to muffins, breads, cakes or made into juices and smoothies. The versatility of the fruit doesn’t stop in the desserts: pineapple is widely used in savoury dishes, for example as a pizza topping, in hamburgers, in curries or other spicy dishes and it is a great match with fish and pork. In the eighties in Brazil it was very trendy to make a pineapple boat and serve a prawn cocktail or sauce in it. Who doesn’t love a smoothie or cocktail served in that funky pineapple cup? Reminds me of the 80s again, more precisely the American sitcoms set in Hawaii! Then you have the classic Piña Colada…....
My Garden Salad with Hearts of Palm

My Garden Salad with Hearts of Palm

I’ve just arrived in Australia after 2 months in Brazil. It is great to be back to Tassie to enjoy the spring time; I simply love this time of the year, days are starting to get longer and my garden has started to blossom! The colours and smells are amazing! I am very excited with the fact that the new season brings new fresh Tasmanian produce that I can use in my recipes. Here is picture showing what the incredible Salamanca market can offer in terms of vegetables. Impossible not to get super keen to go to the kitchen and cook with these beauties! Well, since spring is here I thought I should make a garden salad which is a dish that is light, refreshing and has everything to do with this pleasant time of the year. Brazilians are very fond of hearts of palm and one of the best ways to eat them is in salads. Hearts of palm add a great touch to garden salads, making them go from ordinary to something very special. It is my second recipe here using this vegetable (see Creamy Heart of Palm Soup) which is a white cylinder removed from the core of some palm trees. For many years hearts of palm were harvested illegally in South America out of native trees that would die after the removal of its core. In recent years though a sustainable species of hearts of palm called pupunha has been popularised and now these plantations are the main source for the preserved hearts of palm industry. In Brazil, preserved hearts of palm are eaten plain,...
Prawn Croquettes with Saffron Mayonnaise

Prawn Croquettes with Saffron Mayonnaise

Brazilians love the beach possibly more than any other nation in the world. Because we spend so much time at the beach the variety of food options you can have are huge either in carts or out of the beach front restaurants. Foods from beach carts range from corn on the cob, dulce de leche churros, sandwiches, ice-cream, sushi and all sorts of alcoholic drinks you can possible imagine. At some beaches there are even carts that sell wines. It is a peculiar part of our culture the habit of arriving early at the beach and spend the whole day snacking under the beach umbrella. It’s the Brazilian version of pic-nic! During summer, the beach front restaurants get packed at lunch time, with people gathering around the tables to have sea-food petiscos (the Portuguese word for fingerfood or tapas) with a cold beer or Caipirinha cocktail (check the recipe here) . Many of these petiscos are deep-fried and amongst the most beloved ones is the prawn croquette. Made with prawn shell stock, these croquettes carry an intense flavour of prawns that are a perfect match with my saffron mayonnaise or a good hot chilli sauce. In the classic recipes the croquette is made by processing the prawns with the croquette dough. My version has basically the same flavours, however I like the idea of keeping the prawn whole so, apart from the smooth croquette and the crunchy crumb, it is also possible to feel the texture of the prawns.  Ingredients  20 large prawns, whole 1 tbs unsalted butter 1 tbs vegetable oil 1 large onion, roughly chopped 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped 2 tbs...