I have been quiet for a while, busy discovering new corners of South America, and doing some work while at it... I do promise to get back here more often from now on!
Today, let’s talk about Brazil. We have heard more than enough about it on the news lately, but I get the feeling the focus has been somewhat economic. Even though it is interesting to see how world financial flows have been thrown around and today’s money makers are in fact the developing countries of yesteryear, whilst the big powers of pre-2008 are scrambling to get by, that is not what this blog is about. Brazil has become Latin America’s economic super power and that is not something that can or should be ignored. In the realm of travel it has had two interesting consequences:
First, travel to Brazil has become more expensive; the Real has revalued a lot and prices are similar to those in Europe and North America, if not, in some cases, higher. That said, we are still traveling in great numbers to the old, and the not so old, continents, which means the current price tag on tourism in Brazil is probably not going to be prohibitive to travelers. One main difference is air fare prices, which remain very expensive throughout the Latin America region, compared to similar distance long-haul flights in other parts of the world. One day I will try and investigate how this comes to be and if something could be done about it, but for now, the cost of international flights will remain the only real obstacle for people to travel to Brazil and its neighbors. I promise that when I find a cure for this, I will share it here first!
Second, Brazilians are rapidly becoming the largest visitor groups to their neighboring countries. For Argentina this is already the case, with almost 20% of all Brazilians traveling abroad heading for Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Bariloche. Also Peru is well-visited, with Machu Picchu as the most important destination. This might in the end mean that some of the entries you will see from me in the future will be written in Portuguese… J
Funny, I am sitting here in the attic of my house, winter is about to hit Buenos Aires, and I have just found out the heater up here has decided to stop working. Six degrees Celsius outside and I am thinking of Brazil… Last time I went (apart from a few stopovers) is already a while ago now, a little over a year in fact! I wrote a piece on the North of Brazil then and I remember dedicating some of it to the Feijoada dish this region is famous for. Sitting here, sipping a cup of instant soup to keep warm, I all of a sudden feel hungry, so let’s see what the Feijoada is all about again, shall we? I Googled a bit and found a good entry, which I hereby will copy, hoping the good people on about.com/homecooking as well as Mrs. Heidi Haughy Cusick (who’s book “Soul and Spice” is mentioned as the source) will be happy with my enthusiasm:
“The hearty Feijoada stew is the national dish of Brazil. It's loaded with black beans, pork, bacon, sausage, ham, and beef. Plan ahead to soak the beans overnight. This recipe takes some time to cook, but the result is well worth it.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
· 2 cups (1 pound) black beans, rinsed and picked over
· 3/4 pound pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat
· 6 ounces slab bacon
· 1/2 pound smoked pork sausages
· 1/2 pound hot Portuguese sausage such as linguica
· 1 or 2 pounds ham hock or shank, cut into 1-inch rounds
· 1 large yellow onion, chopped
· 2 to 4 ounces dried beef carne seca, minced (optional; see Note)
For the Seasonings:
· 3 garlic cloves, minced and sauteed in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
· 6 green onions, including tops, chopped
· 1 yellow onion, chopped
· Large handful of chopped fresh parsley (about 1/2 cup)
· 2 bay leaves, crumbled
· 1-1/2 tablespoons dried oregano, crushed
· Salt and ground black pepper
· Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Soak the black beans overnight in water to cover by several inches. Drain.
Place the drained black beans in a saucepan and add water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Add additional water as needed to keep the beans covered.
While the black beans are cooking, prepare the meats. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Dice the pork butt or shoulder and the bacon into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the pork, whole sausages, and bacon in a large baking pan. Roast until well done. The sausages will be ready after 35 to 40 minutes and the other meats after 45 to 60 minutes.
Cook the ham hock at the same time as the meats are roasting. In a saucepan, combine the ham hock rounds and onion with water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the ham hock rounds from the water and remove the meat from the bones, if desired; set aside. Or leave the rounds intact for serving alongside the black beans. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl. Add the strained onions from the liquid to the beans. Add the cooking liquid to the beans if needed to keep them immersed.
Once the black beans are almost cooked, check to make sure there is plenty of cooking liquid in the pot. It should be rather soupy at this point. Stir in the beef (carne seca). Cut the sausages into rounds and add them and all the other cooked meats to the pot. Then add all of the seasonings to the pot, including salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the beans are very tender.
Taste and adjust the seasonings. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley just before serving.”
Of course, cooking this up at home is the second best option, and will suffice only until you can make your way to Brazil in person and sit down to an authentic Brazilian feast accompanied by a cachaca or two and perhaps a little samba. Here are a few ideas for you if you plan to visit:
OK, I am off out to buy black beans and bring a little Brazilian heat into this cold Buenos Aires day, talk to you later!