August 11, 2011

Brazilfest and Food




Last weekend while the gang (Zexxy, The Main and Nat) were at Grouse Grind hiking and eating pizza, I decided to go to a festival I had already marked as great. One of the major streets in the Downtown core of Vancouver, Granville was partially closed and filled with the sounds of samba, the moves of capoeira and various other Brazilian cultural treasures, including authentic food. Brazilfest is back!
This time a big part of the festival was authentic Brazilian "street" food.
Huge countries like Brazil usually have very vibrant and exotic gastronomies; Brazil's gastronomy is influenced mainly by three different cultures. One of them is Portuguese and the other two are the local Indians and slaves from Africa.
One of the best examples is Feijoada, a traditional African black bean stew infused with salted pork and Linguiça (a Portugese sausage) and Farofa (a local toasted dish prepared with manioc flour) which is then cooked in a clay pot for hours. Originally, this dish was prepared with different parts of the meat including pig trimmings, such as parts of the head and feet. This is still a Sunday tradition among many Brazilian families.
Obviously, you can link beans and meat stew among many cultures, especially Mediterranean. For example French "cassoulet" and Serbian "Srpski pasulj" I have already mentioned in previous posts on my blog.



One of the most iconic street foods from the Bahia region, Acarajé (black bean fritters) also has its roots in Nigerian bean fritters, Akara. The only difference is the accompanying Vatapá shrimp paste served with these fritters in Brazil. Brazilian women, who were making the dish for the event, beautifully dressed in traditional white, told me how much effort it takes to make this dish, from cooking and peeling beans to forming balls and frying.
It is worth the effort! However, I'm on the Brazilian side here, the shrimp paste makes it taste so much better!

Beside famous Brazilian churrasco-grilled meat, coxinha de frango-chicken filled dough, I very much enjoyed quejos/pao de quejo, an unusualy chewy, wheat free, cheese bun made from tapioca flour.



A wide range of exotic fruits is present in many popular sweets and pastries, as well as drinks. One of the most popular alcoholic drinks is batida, made with a variety of fruit chunks and juices and cachaça-strong sugar cane brandy.

An interesting fact is that Brazilians like to eat their fresh fruits with a fruit seasoning called salsa en polvo. Usually this seasoning mix is made of dried lime juice, chili peppers and salt.
How does spiced up pineapple or mango taste compared to eating just plain fruits? To give you an idea, it's like comparing two types of dance steps... samba and waltz.




Besides the exotic fruits, Brazilian party desserts consist of light cakes and custards with coconut, cocoa and condensed milk. Doce de liete-milk dessert or pudding, quindinho custard and beijinho-coconut kisses, were very simple and popular, but I noticed that one dessert beat the rest based on the number of requests from native Brazilians present at the festival. It was Brigadeiro, Brazilian chocolate truffle; it is very simple to make, yet very smooth and delicious.



Stroll through Brazilian gastronomy would be incomplete if I didn't mention coffee, one of the symbols of Brasil, beside soccer and samba. But more about that on my Espresso page.


Recipes

Acaraje with vatapa





Acaraje-Akara

Ingredients:
1 lb (1/2 kg) dried black-eyed peas
1/2 cup dried shrimp
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 tsp cayenne or 1 small fresh chili pepper
Salt, pepper
palm or vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
Soak the black-eyed peas overnight in cold water to cover. Drain. Rub off and discard the skins. Soak the shrimp in cold water for 30 minutes. Puree the peas, onion, shrimps, garlic and cayenne in a food processor. Season to taste with salt, if necessary. Form mixture into tablespoon size balls.
Meanwhile in a 5-quart pot or Dutch oven, fitted with a candy or deep-frying thermometer, or in an electric deep fryer, heat oil over medium-low heat. Fry the fritters in small batches until golden brown, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve at room temperature with Vatapá paste.


Vatapá
(Ground Shrimp Paste)
________________________________________
Vatapá is a paste used to accompany dishes such as acaraje-fried bean patties, and xinxim-chicken and shrimp stew. Ground shrimp vatapá is the most popular and there are variety of others

Ingredients
1 small garlic clove
1” ginger, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp ground roasted peanuts
2 tbsp ground roasted cashews
¾ cup ground dried shrimps
1 tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. olive oil
2/3 cup palm oil
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup breadcrumbs


Combine onions, garlic, ginger, peanuts, cashews, ground shrimp and cilantro leaves in a food processor and process into a coarse paste.
Heat olive and palm oils and add the paste. Cook for 15 minutes in low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut milk and breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes and serve.


Quidim

Ingredients:

10 egg yolks
4 eggs
1 good cup of sugar
2 table spoons of butter
110 gr grated fresh coconut (or dried coconut flakes)

1 cup water for the water bath

Mix well all ingredients. Take small molds and grease them. Fill the molds with custard, but not to a maximum. Bake in bain-marie/water bath with water filled up to 1/2 hight of the molds for 20-30 minutes on 180 C (350 F).
Let it cool before you take the puddings from the mold.




Pao de Queijo - Brazilian Cheese Bread/buns



Pão de queijo is made with cassava flour (tapioca flour), the ground root of the manioc plant. Recipes call for Parmesan, Brazilians often use their Queijo Minas cheese, but you can replace it by any other firm, fresh cow milk cheese.

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 1/4 cups tapioca flour
4 eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
salt to taste

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix milk, salt, vegetable oil and butter in a pot, and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove from heat. Stir tapioca flour into the milk and butter mixture. Stir in the eggs and the cheese, and mix well. Let the mixture cool for 15-30 minutes, so that it will be easier to handle. With floured (tapioca flour) hands, shape the dough into medium size balls and place them on a baking sheet.
Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are puffed up and golden. Serve warm.



Brigadeiro                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:                                                                      
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tbs butter
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
sprinkles, coconut, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or powdered sugar

Directions:
In a small / medium pan cook the cocoa, condensed milk and butter over medium heat. Stir continuously for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and let it cool. Once the mixture has cooled, create small balls by rolling it in your hands.
Roll each ball in sprinkles, coconut, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or powdered sugar and place it in a fridge to cool.

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