Thursday, 12 June 2014

Bom Apetite!

Love it or hate it, football is likely to cross your path for the next few weeks as the 2014 World Cup tournament gets underway this evening in Brazil. Whilst not strictly speaking a fan, my family is pretty male-dominated and my partner works his calendar around matches, so I have needed to find a way to make the tournament work for me. Which is why I have used it as the perfect excuse to explore the food of Brazil!

Ready for the opening ceremony tonight, I have made a Brazilian feast fit for the greatest fan – be they foodie or footie or both, and I have a sneaky feeling at least one of them might be working its way into my regular repertoire.

To start, we will be nibbling on Coxinha, a popular street food in Brazil. These are bite-sized “little chicken drumsticks” and great fun to make. I have to admit to accidentally polishing off the leftover filling while making them yesterday because it was so delicious, and as we all know that deep-frying multiplies food by a factor of delicious, this should mean the finished article will be delicious squared.

Coxinha are made by poaching a large chicken breast in stock and a mirepoix of vegetables before allowing it to cool and shredding it. In a deviation from how they are traditionally made, the chicken is then mixed with cream cheese rather than Mexican crema and a little tomato paste, as well as fresh corn kernels, grated garlic, sliced spring onions and seasoning. Some of the poaching liquid and a little oil are then brought to a boil and used to make a roux-based dough with plain flour, which is kneaded, rolled to 3mm thickness and cut into 10cm discs. Each disc is used to enclose a little of the filling as a teardrop-shaped pouch, which is then dipped in an egg wash and coated in breadcrumbs (I used Panko). The pouches are then deep-fried in batches, drained on paper and served hot with a sprinkling of salt. Whilst time consuming and a little fiddly these were great fun to make.

I really enjoy making streetfood like this, which in my mind, due to the necessity of portability, largely falls into a number of categories:
  • Things In Wraps – such as burritos, spring rolls, peking duck, nori rolls, masala dosa and gyros
  • Mouth-Pops – such as arancini, bhel puri, churros and Pão de Queijo (see below)
  • Hidden-Content Foodstuffs – where a filling is enclosed in some sort of pastry, such as Cornish Pasties*, baozi, brik and samosas

Slightly more tricky to make were the Pão de Quieijo, soft chewy cheese bread rolls. For these, I was supposed to use two different types of manioc starch. Manioc is another word for cassava, and the starch and the flour are not one and the same. The recipe called for both a sightly fermented version and a non-fermented version, but neither supermarket nor organic health food store could land me what I needed, even if it is gluten free! I did find ground manioc in Sainsbury's but this would make more of a porridge consistency, so I opted instead for Arrowroot, which also derives from rhizomes of a number of root vegetables native to South America, including manioc, and which research assured me would give a close likeness to the required consistency. Cornflour would prove too sticky, I was told, and potato flour would become slimy after cooking.

To make the bread rolls, I blended eggs and egg yolks with packed grated parmesan well in a food processor to make a loose paste. I brought milk, water and olive oil to a boil and added this to the arrowroot along with pinches of cayenne, nutmeg and pepper. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, use it!! I don’t, and my arms are now paying for the 15 minutes of hard work mixing and kneading this to a smooth and incredibly sticky dough. After resting overnight in the fridge, the dough is rolled into gold-ball sized balls and baked until lightly golden before serving while warm and chewy.

Next I made steak marinaded in Chimichurri Rojo. The marinade is like an Argentine Worcestershire, with sherry vinegar, oil, paprika, cayenne, minced garlic, ground cumin and pepper with bay and salt. I used thin sirloins but skirt steak is recommended. The steaks marinated overnight in half of the marinade ready to be quickly grilled the next day (the acidity in the marinade serves to cure the steak, greatly reducing its cooking time whilst increasing its tenderness). To serve with the steaks I made Cebollas Fritas – thinly sliced Spanish onion battered and fried before liberally covering with manchego cheese and baking.

To round off proceedings and provide occasional cheering fuel during the first match, I made chocolate Brigadeiros – chocolate fudge balls. Though a little time consuming, these were simple to make – I boiled condensed milk, cream, butter and golden syrup (a substitution for corn syrup) before stirring through chopped chocolate (I used 70% cocoa to counter the sweetness a little) and cocoa powder. This is then cooked, stirring constantly, ‘until the mixture moves as one piece’ and there is a burnt layer on the bottom. As an insurance policy, I used a probe and cooked it to 110C. This mixture was cooled in a bowl to room temperature and then covered in the fridge for a few hours before being rolled into truffle-sized balls and coating in grated chocolate. They are very sticky indeed and I’m not too sure how many of the ice-cream tub full even two hungry boys are going to manage, but I will do my best to help. 

Hopefully, one of those hungry boys will mix me a traditional Brazilian Caipirinha to go with it after my hard work. Gotta keep things authentic, after all!

So, if food, but not football is your thing, why not use the World Cup as an excuse to explore a few new world cuisines? You might find some new favourite dishes…

*Funny story, I once had an email jokingly refer to ‘nipple pasties’ and it took me a long time to re-adjust my thinking away from either the amazing (although possibly somewhat painful) concept of nipples adorned with miniature steak and swede-filled delights, or of canapé pastries in the shape of, well, nipples. Which miniature versions of the coxinha’s described above do in fact resemble.


  1. Love it Love it Love it... but more photos?

    1. Ah! Cinar! My big problem is the food looking so delicious I end up eating it before I remember to take pictures and then there's none left! Hopefully the few additional photos I've posted should get you dribbling (boom, boom!)