Classic Brazilian Recipes

Brazilian Strawberry Trifle

Brazilian Strawberry Trifle

‘Every food has a story’, so it says the slogan of Australia’s Feast Magazine. This is absolutely true. When I am cooking, in special for my blog, I always think about the story that is behind that particular food. I am there in the kitchen, stirring something, slicing, mixing a cake, preparing a dessert, etc, thinking about what I am going to tell and all of the sudden I remember an event related to the dish. It can be either the cooking process, any difficulties I had, how I learnt the dish, something special about the produce, shopping or the story of a special occasion in which the dish was served. This Brazilian Strawberry Trifle is no different. This dish reminds me when I used to work for an accounting firm when I lived in Albury (NSW) many years ago. I met lots of great people over there and made good friends and many of them are still in touch with me today. It is amazing how they embraced me as part of their team in a very warm way. Being originally from another country it is always more difficult to start a new job because of cultural differences. But from day one they treated me as part of their team. There was an occasion in which they had a morning tea to celebrate ‘Harmony Day‘, a wonderful initiative by the Australian government in which all Australians are invited to celebrate Australia’s diversity. It is amazing that people from more than 200 countries make up the Australian community and more than 300 languages are spoken in Australian homes, including my mother language Portuguese! Anyway, they asked me to cook...
Brazilian Crème Caramel with Fresh Raspberries

Brazilian Crème Caramel with Fresh Raspberries

Thanks to the Portuguese, crème caramels have been part of the Brazilians’ table for many years. Initially the basic Brazilian custard recipe was very similar to the original Portuguese caramel recipe and had milk, sugar and eggs. In the beginning of the 20th century, however, sweetened condensed milk slowly started to be incorporated into our recipes and these days most Brazilians prefer to use this ingredient. In reality, if I were to translate the name of the dish literally, it would be ‘Sweetened Condensed Milk Flan’. There is not only a plain version of this recipe, the usual Brazilian excitement in the kitchen led to the creation of hundreds of flavours. Recipes may include fruits like pineapple, mango, banana, guava, strawberry; nuts like walnuts and peanuts; white or dark chocolate; and vegetables such as corn or pumpkin, to name a few. Although the caramel recipe is very easy to follow, the result is not always satisfactory. If you are not careful, the custard can easily overcook ending up in a caramel that instead of being smooth and silk, has a texture of a Swiss cheese! Some people in Brazil don’t mind the overcooked version, but to me, silkiness is totally required! I love the melt-in-the-mouth feeling that this dessert provides. Therefore, if you have the same taste as me, keep an eye on the cooking time (preferably use a timer) to get the recipe right. It’s 45 minutes in a fan-forced oven, then switch it off and leave the custard finish cooking gently for about 3 hours or until the oven has cooled down before you put it in the fridge. By the way, I did not test this...
Crumbed ‘Cuddled’ Prawns with Mango and Coconut Salad

Crumbed ‘Cuddled’ Prawns with Mango and Coconut Salad

Camarão abraçadinho or ‘cuddled prawns’ is a typical dish of Brazilian beach restaurants. The cute name ‘cuddled’ comes from the way the prawns are threaded onto the skewer which gives the impression they are hugging each other. They are often served either as an appetiser, entrée, or as part of a seafood platter that may include prawn and fish croquettes, French fries and steamed or pan-fried fish. In many occasions they are eaten with a cold beer or a caipirinha on the side. In Brazil these skewers are made with very small prawns. In fact, legend says that the cuddled tiny prawns were created to make them give you the sensation you are eating a bigger one. Large prawns used to be quite expensive in Brazil so the cuddled prawns would provide the feeling of eating something better for a fraction of the price! Summer has arrived in Australia and to me it is a very exciting time of the year because it means more beautiful produce becomes available to use in my kitchen. Strawberries are super flavoursome (stay tuned for a strawberry dessert I am making for Christmas) and other little fruits like blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries will soon be plentiful and cheaper. Peaches and nectaries are also a delight that come with summer along with the exquisite Australian mangoes. Native to South and South-East Asia, mangoes are full of vitamins and a great source of calcium. Brazil is also a top producer of the highest quality mangoes, so much so that they taste like a native fruit.  For many years, mangoes have been playing an important part on the diet of Brazilians: they are eaten as a snack, in fruit salads, used to prepare...
Coconut Mousse with Pineapple Flowers

Coconut Mousse with Pineapple Flowers

So summer is officially here and coconut and pineapple are the faces of the season! Many beaches in the Northeast of Brazil have beautiful rows of coconut palm trees representing Brazil’s tropical essence. When you go to one of those beaches, it is not uncommon to see little frisky boys climbing huge coconut palms to pick green coconuts for their own consumption or to be sold at the beach to thirsty beachgoers who love to drink a refreshing and healthy coconut water. Coconut water is such a fever in Brazil that I think probably 100% of the Brazilian beaches have carts selling the drink. It’s so entertaining to see some of the vendors opening a coconut! They grab a very big sharp knife and cut the fruit open with such dexterity that you almost believe that is easy to copy that. After you finish your water you go back to the cart and ask to the vendor to split it in half so you can eat the fleshy and slippery green coconut meat using an improvised spoon made from coconut skin. With time you will learn that improvisation is something that has been mastered in Brazil! Coconut can be considered one of the key ingredients of our cuisine. The fruit and its by products are widely used in Brazilian recipes for many savoury dishes, desserts and drinks. Being a fruit native to Brazil, pineapple is available all year round and many types of pineapples are sold in supermarkets. Brazilians enjoy freshly squeezed pineapple juice to cool down those hot summer days, a slice of fresh pineapple early in the morning or barbecued pineapple on Sunday summer lunches....
Peanut and Chocolate Bon-Bon (Cajuzinho)

Peanut and Chocolate Bon-Bon (Cajuzinho)

Peanut is another precious produce that was a gift from South America to the world. Many people don’t know that peanut is not a nut, but actually a member of the pulse family. Despite the fact that the name cajuzinho translates as ‘little cashew’, there is no cashew on the recipe! With more than 100 years old, the ancient cajuzinho is a bite-sized sweet that used to be served in dinner parties as part of a dessert and sweets buffet of Brazilian farm houses. In its old recipe, cajuzinho used to be made with peanuts, grated chocolate, sugar and beaten egg whites (or water). and then rolled into mini cashew apple shapes. In some modern recipes sugar and egg whites are replaced by sweetened condensed milk, but some of the purist cooks still prefer to stick to the original recipe. In the 80s, along with cajuzinho, brigadeiro and beijinho were the main sweets served in kids’ parties. Even though it is incredibly delicious, interestingly cajuzinho was a bit underrated by the kids and adults alike, who always preferred the other two. I don’t know the reason, but my guess is that cajuzinho was probably not as popular because it is made with peanuts, which are used to make many types of commercial sweets easily found in supermarkets in Brazil. Even so that these days cajuzinho is nearing extinction from kids’ parties and being replaced by other sweets like gourmet brigadeiros and cupcakes. If you are a fan of peanuts, this is the sweet for you. Differently from brigadeiro or beijinho, cajuzinho does not require any cooking or stirring (apart from roasting the peanuts). It has only 5 ingredients and very easy to prepare, making it the perfect party sweet. In addition, the shape is original and they look...
Cheese Bread Rolls

Cheese Bread Rolls

Cheese bread is a Brazilian type of roll essentially made with cheese, tapioca starch, eggs, milk and oil. These little beauties are originally from the state of Minas Gerais located in the south-eastern part of Brazil. Minas Gerais is one of the leading producers of cheese in the country and is where many of the typical Brazilian cheeses were invented. For example, Minas cheese is a type of fresh cheese with mild and salty taste, and a rubbery texture. It is appreciated in the morning with some fresh bread or as dessert with either guava paste (which is called Romeo and Juliet) or with dollops of dulce de leche. Prato cheese, which is yellow and sharp in taste, was created in the 20s and its recipe is inspired in the Danish cheeses Dambo and Tybo and the Dutch Gouda and is commonly sold in brick shapes. The production of the soft Catupiry started in 1911 and is a cheese that is added to many popular recipes like ‘prawns in tomato sauce with catupiry‘, ‘chicken with catupiry‘, ‘catupiry pizza’ or ‘catupiry and chicken fritter’ (coxinha). The cheese culture of the estate of Minas Gerais resulted in the creation of many recipes with cheese including these rolls. They are extremely popular in Brazil and eaten any time of the day: for breakfast with a cup of coffee, as a mid-morning or afternon tea snack. In many restaurants it is served as an appetiser with dips. Cheese bread rolls are also found anywhere you go in Brazil. In bakeries they are freshly baked on a daily basis and usually it is possible to find more than one type of cheese bread. In the supermarkets many types of cheese bread are sold...
Black-Eyed Pea Fritters (Acarajé)

Black-Eyed Pea Fritters (Acarajé)

In my opinion, this is the best street-food that Brazil can offer. I still remember when I went many years ago to sunny Salvador in Bahia state and bought them straight from the very friendly Baianas of Acarajé: the gorgeous cooks who make these fritters in a street cart. Baianas are very easy to spot in the streets of Salvador as they are dressed in long white dresses with a wide skirt made with layers of lace. On the head they wear a white turban and with the clothes lots of colourful bangles and necklaces. This costume dress has African influence and is related to the Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomblé. The dishes of the state of Bahia are the most famous in our country and many traditional foods like bobó, moqueca and vatapá essentially have red palm oil (dendê), chilli, coconut milk, coriander and seafood. These dishes are offered to gods during sacred rituals of Candomblé. When baianas are dressed in colourful clothes they are called Baianas of Tourism. In Rio’s carnival parade every samba school has a special wing dedicated to Baianas and they wear the same dress and turban but made with shiny colourful fabric and lots of sparkly beads. Carmen Miranda, the late Brazilian star who is known for her tutti-frutti hat and flamboyant style got inspiration from baianas to create her style. She became a Hollywood star singing and dancing songs about Brazil in the Hollywood musicals of the 40s. Both the typical baiana’s dress and acarajé are very important to Brazil’s culture and are heritage-listed. Acarajé is often filled with dried or fried prawns, vatapá and chilli sauce. Because they are a bit plump,...
Brazilian Beef Stew with Rice and Warm Salad

Brazilian Beef Stew with Rice and Warm Salad

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...
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...
‘Vatapa’ Bahia’s Nut Puree with Prawns

‘Vatapa’ Bahia’s Nut Puree with Prawns

Extremely exotic, this Afro-Brazilian icon is another creamy and rich dish from Bahia made with xerem (a mixture of ground peanuts and cashew nuts), coconut milk and red palm oil (dende). This dish is so popular in Brazil that even the great composer and singer Dorival Caymmi cleverly turned into tribute song with the same name. He provides the recipe ingredients and some cooking tips and sets the tone that a good Vatapa must be stirred regularly, so it doesn’t go lumpy or burn. Dorival is absolutely right: Vatapa is so delicious that a song is more than deserved. You will also agree with him when you cook it and the irresistible aromas of palm oil, nuts and coconut milk start to float in your kitchen. Commonly used as a filling to the Acarajé fritters (recipe coming soon) or eaten with seafood or chicken, it can also be served as an exotic dip.  Ingredients  Prawns: 1kg prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil 2 cloves garlic 1 long red chilli, finely chopped 1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped Vatapa Puree: 250ml of coconut milk 100ml hot water 8 slices white block, crusts removed 1 cup toasted and unsalted peanuts 1 cup toasted and unsalted cashew nuts 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 long red chillies 4 large tomatoes, skinless and roughly chopped 50g dried Thai shrimp* 80ml red palm (dende) oil** 1 piece ginger (3 cm), grated Pinch of nutmeg Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste 1 red chilli (extra), sliced, to garnish Lime wedges, to serve Brazilian-style rice (recipe...