Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feijoada Cooking Lesson

I'm having a lot of cooking lessons these last few weeks before I leave Brazil. This month I learned the basics for making feijoada, that wonderful bean and meat stew that's practically synonymous with "Brazilian food" (note: I first blogged about it on August 15).

Here is a quick summary:

On Friday, Nov. 9, 2007, Claudia Lima, her co-worker friend Ilda De Sousa Batista and I went to downtown’s sprawling, lively Mercado Central (Central Market) to buy the ingredients for Sunday’s feijoada party.

Our first stop was at what they assured me was THE BEST place in Belo Horizonte to buy the meat: O Rei da Feijoada Ltda. (the King of Feijoada). This was the first step in untangling the mysteries of all the smoked and salted meats that are integral to this dish.

Upon arriving at O Rei da Feijoada, they hand you a paper over the counter with a chart that lists 19 ingredients to choose from (in Portuguese, of course). We took 9 items, including a special sausage for an appetizer (tiragosto)
There we picked, taken from the receipt, as well as I can tell:

Feijao preto (black beans) 2 pkgs (1 kilo each)
Lingua suina salgada (.815 K)
Pe suina salgada (1 K) [salted pig’s feet]
Lombo defumado (1.1 K) [smoked pork loin]
Costela defumada inteira (1.15 K) [smoked pork ribs]
Linguica defumado ext. gros (.92 K)
Charque trazeiro (1.1 K) [smoked beef]
Rabo Suino salgado (.4 K) [salted pork tail]
Linguica Paio Edtra (.78 K) (special pork sausage)
Bacon Extra (.25 K)

Next Ilda went and bought some special Minas cachaça (Joao Mendes, or JM) for the caipirinhas while Claudia and I went to by the long grain rice (arroz), some vegetable oil (oleo) and salt. Then we went for fresh produce and fruits. Some couve (this is usually referred to as kale or collard greens).

Ilda spent Saturday de-salting and cooking of the salted meats, and pounding the garlic and salt and generally doing the prep for much of Sunday's work, when we actually cooked the beans and meats together (sautéing each of the sausages and smoked meats separately before adding them to the beans and salted meats), prepared the side dishes, etc. On Sunday Ilda and her sister Inesia de Sousa Batista and I arrived early at Claudia's apartment with cooking equipment and ingredients. We set up in the huge but private indoor-outdoor space for parties and people began arriving beginning mid-morning to early afternoon. There was a lot of fellowship, snacks and drinks to get people in the mood. Throughout the afternoon, Sonya Rocha played a few songs on her guitar, and by the end of the fun, relaxing (if busy) day, I felt more connected to Brazil than ever before.

Here are some pictures and a couple of video clips I took:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Garden Eggs in Suriname

More on garden eggs:

Several types of garden eggs (
Solanum aethiopicum) are grown in Ghana, with local names like aworoworo, obolo, asurowia, asusuapin, and antropo.

Suriname is a country in South America, about the size of Georgia in the United States, and one of Brazil's northern neighbors. Prof. H. L. van de Lande ( biologist and plant pathologist, and department head of biology and chemistry at ADEK University, Leysweg/Paramaribo - shares a photo from the market in Paramaribo, along with information on garden eggs in Suriname, where they are known by the local Sranan Tongo name antruwa, and are also from the Solanaceae family (and thus related to eggplant, or aubergine), but it seems a different type, Solanum macrocarpon.

Interestingly, Ramon Finkie from the same university tells me that many Surinamese people descended from slaves originally from Ghana.

According to Prof. van de Lande:

"Antruwa is used in a variety of ways: as a vegetable, stewed with onions, sometimes pieces of salted beef, or with dry shrimps, or, as it is. it is also used in okra soup, or it can be cooked in water, and then some vinegar, sugar maybe some pieces of hot pepper added. It is then eaten as a side dish, pickled antruwa, mostly with a mixed rice dish, which we call moksi aleisi.

Moksi aleisi
(also the Sranan Tongo name)
or mixed rice, can be very variable depending on who is making it; you can make all kinds . . . depending what ingredients (or, leftovers) you have available and in which cultural environment you were brought up. The mixed rice made by the Chinese is much different from the mixed rice made by the Javanese or by the Creole or by the Hindu people. But when one says: "moksi aleisi", then one generally refers to the mixed rice dish made by the Creole or the Negroes."

She further explains that "Sranan Tongo is the local Surinamese language, which is spoken by practically everyone; it can be considered the bridging language between all cultures and etnic groups. The official language is Dutch, which is spoken by the majority of people in Suriname. Still, especially older people in the rural area or in the interior speak either their language of their culture/ethnic group of origin (this can be the local Javanese language, different from the one in Java, Indonesia, the local hindi language which is again slightly different from Hindi in India, local Chinese, or the various languahges spoken by the descendants of the Maroon people or the differen languages spoken by the indigenous people, the Amerindians etc. etc. for all other cultural/ethnic groups."

I love all the Afro-Latin links I'm discovering during my stay in Brazil. Another day I'll share what I've learned about cassava/manioc in Suriname!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Capoeira, cassava bread, and fried manioc in Brazil

Okay, I admit it. This post is about African culture in Brazil, not just African food culture, but the line is kind of blurry, isn't it? I can't think about African food without thinking about music and community, anyway. Last weekend friends were here from Chile, and my sister from Oregon, so a group of us went to Ouro Prêto, a UNESCO world heritage site. I especially wanted to show them the carvings of Alejiandnho ( nicknamed "Little Cripple," the son of a Portuguese architect and a black slave, and one of the most famous sculptors of Brazil), and the church built by Chico-Rei, an African king from Angola who was captured with his entire tribe and sent to work in a mine in Ouro Prêto, and who later earned his freedom, his son's, and the rest of his people's, then re-established his court, African clothing, and African customs in Ouro Prêto. He is a folk hero among Brazilian blacks. While we were lounging in Tiradentes Square in the town's center, some guys started playing and "dancing" capoeira, a form of African martial arts/dance that was developed by slaves to fight their masters, and disguised as a kind of dance. It's noted for its "fluid and circular" movements. I pulled out my camera, got their permission (but they didn't want money), and recorded a few minutes of the dance to share.

There's a lot of African influence in Minas Gerais. This Friday I'm heading to Central Market again to shop for a cooking class this weekend where I'm learning to make feijoada for friends who're coming on Sunday (remember I wrote about eating it in August when we first arrived). By the way, a couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at pão de queijo, a great specialty of the region, a kind of cheese popover made with tapioca flour, eggs, cheese, and butter. It's one of my husband's new-found favorites, along with the mandioca fritas I've also been learning to make, both illustrated below.