Feijoada, a rich stew and the national dish of Brazil, is a delightful way of getting the real local taste of Brazil.
From roasted meats to toasted cassava flour; from pickled chillies to smoky stews – the flavours of Brazilian cuisine are as wide and varied as the country itself. There is too much that one can’t relish in one trip. However, one dish hard to ignore is the national dish of Brazil – Feijoada. The word feijoada comes from the word feijão, which means beans in Portuguese. Feijoada is a black bean stew that is brewed with a variety of salted and smoked pork and beef products. The more traditional feijoada also includes pig’s ears, feet and tails, and beef tongue. The rich, smoky stew is then served with rice and orange slices.
Though the dish seems to be famous and complements the Brazilian culture, the origin of feijoada has a question mark. It is believed and written in various travel journals that feijoada was created by slaves on sugar cane plantations who took the scraps of meat not eaten by their masters (pig’s ears, feet and tails) and cooked them with black beans, which were native to Brazil and the foundation of the slaves’ diets. However, recent Brazilian scholars disagree with the basis of this story. According to them, the scraps of meat were actually observed by the Europeans. Also, feijoada has more of a resemblance to the European stews, specifically the pork and bean cozido from Portugal, than the native and African bean dishes. The slaves may have been the ones who first started making feijoada, but most likely they were making it for their masters’ palates.
A British writer James Scudamore in his novel Heliopolis, described feijoada as “If cooking feijão is an exercise in loading the beans with whatever flavour you can summon, then feijoada is about overkill. Every mouthful is different and the dark, glossy sauce is enriched by every dried, salted, fresh, or smoked cut you throw in… from the new cuts – smoked pork sausages, loin chops and belly, jerked and salted beef, salt pork – to the old cuts … ears, tails, trotters.”
The meal is just as warm, rich and vibrant as the music, people and culture of Brazil. It is on the menu at every food establishment from casual buffets to the top restaurants. The dish is so integrated into Brazilian culture that Saturday is known as the day of feijoada. It is not just a meal but also an event to share with family and friends. A one-pot of Brazilian feijoada fit for any celebration! A suggestion, pair of plate of feijoada with an ice-cold Brazilian Brahma and you are on your way to a perfect appetite!
IngredIents (serves 6-8)
- 1 small smoked ham hock
- 1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 400g dried black beans
- 5 garlic cloves, whole
- 1 whole red chilli (optional)300g pork shoulder
- 300g pork belly
- 300g smoked sausage or good spicy pork sausage
- 300g chorizo
- 300g pork ribs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 150g piece pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
- 1 pigs trotter, split (optional)
- 3 onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- A pinch of dry thyme
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
1. The day before, rinse the hock in plenty of cold water. Put in a pan with the onion and garlic, the peppercorns and the bay leaf. Bring up to the boil and simmer for about three hours or until the meat pulls away easily from the ham bone. Allow the meat to cool down in the stock. Refrigerate overnight, keeping the ham stock. Also, soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.
2. On the day, put beans in a pan with the soaking water. Add the whole cloves of garlic and chilli and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour or until the beans are almost cooked through.
3. Cut the pieces of pork shoulder and belly into small chunks along with the sausages and chorizo. Add the ribs: these can be split into single pieces or cooked whole.
4. Heat the oil in a large pan. Brown off the pork pieces, sausages, pancetta and trotter in batches. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the onions, garlic, herbs and paprika. Stir well and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
5. Return the pork pieces, leaving the sausages and bacon to one side. Add about 500ml of the reserved ham-hock stock to the pan and bring up to the boil. Cover and simmer for an hour.
6. Add the rest of the meat to the pan along with the cooked beans. Stir well and simmer for another hour or until the pork pieces are tender. If the sauce seems watery, turn the heat up and reduce for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour.
7. Pick any meat off your precooked ham hock and add it and the vinegar to the stew. Check seasoning and serve.