It’s hard to believe it is now over 10 weeks since lockdown began. Time flies! I was rather concerned that it would be boring and monotonous, but the truth of it is, I have actually enjoyed it! I may not have been galivanting around the world, however, I’ve still been exploring. I’ve discovered parts of the local area I did not know existed, I’ve found beautiful villages and glorious footpaths, I’ve started learning French and I have also discovered the joy of cooking new recipes.
In particular, the joy of cooking exotic meals. The kind of meals you’d enjoy whilst on holiday somewhere other than Home, North Cotswolds.
I shared my favourite recipes from Eastern Europe and Asia on previous blogs, and this time I am travelling back to Argentina and Brazil, two countries which seriously impressed me with their culture, scenery, and cuisine.
We went to Brazil for the beaches, the culture, the samba, the party and the experience. As for cuisine though, we didn’t have a clue what to expect. However, I’ve always believed that eating locally and sharing food is one of the best ways to get to know a place and its people. So, we did what we always do when we are in a new country and went on a food tour with Eat Rio Tours which I can’t recommend enough. Not only did we try some delicious meals, we also had the best time with the friendliest guide who now has his own You Tube channel should you want to cook with Tom!
On the tour we tried all manner of delicious and exotic dishes, however, the one I enjoyed the most, and which we ate all over Brazil was Pão de Queijo. It is dangerously moreish and works with everything from morning coffee, afternoon beer or alongside your dinner. How do people maintain their beach bodies in Brazil with these beauties available everywhere?!
Pão de Queijo are delightfully chewy cheesy bread balls. I did, however, discover during our tour that I had been mispronouncing Pão throughout the journey so far. Instead of cheesy bread I had actually been asking for cheesy penises in every restaurant! No wonder the waiters kept sniggering at me!
Pão de Queijo – Recipe provided by Eat Rio Tours
Serving size 20 balls
- 230ml whole milk
- 120ml vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 285g tapioca starch powder (available on Amazon)
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 170g (6 oz) grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 230°C
- Gently heat the milk, oil and salt in a saucepan until almost (but not quite) boiling.
- Transfer the milk mixture to a mixing bowl and add the tapioca starch. Stir well either in a mixer (on slow) or with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes.
- Add half the beaten egg mixture and continue processing/stirring for a minute or so until it is fully integrated.
- Gradually add some/all of the remaining beaten egg mixture and keep mixing until reasonably smooth. You may find that you don’t need all the egg (it will depend on the size of your eggs, which tend to be bigger in the UK than Brazil). Aim for a thick-ish, play-doh consistency.
- Add the cheese and keep mixing.
- Chill the mixture in the fridge or freezer for 30-60 minutes.
- Form the mixture into ping-pong sized balls.
- Place the cheese balls on a greased baking tray or parchment. Try to leave a reasonable space between them as they will puff up in the oven.
- Place the tray in the oven and at this point reduce the temperature to 180°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the balls have puffed up nicely.
- Place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes but eat whilst still warm
My other favourite “dish” whilst in Brazil was not a dish at all, but a drink. The national cocktail no less! The Caipirinha!
I don’t normally drink alcohol, but I had my fair share of Caipirinhas during our three week trip, the perfect refresher during the hot weather! And anything other than a cocktail in my hand would simply not have felt right whilst sitting on the beach watching the sun set whilst the locals played volleyball.
The main ingredient is cachaça, which is a spirit made from sugar cane (and it is not to be confused with rum!). Cachaça can be purchased from most major supermarkets as well as online which means it’s easy enough to make the recipe anywhere in the UK too!
The following recipe is courtesy of my cousin Ali Rocha, who has spent the best part of her life in Brazil and who make a very mean Caipirinha.
- 1 juicy lime
- 2 heaped tsp of sugar
- Lots of ice
- 75 ml Cachaça (or as strong as you like it)
- Cut the lime in half and remove the pulp
- Cut each half into 4 pieces
- Put half the lime into one glass (the other half into a second)
- Add the sugar and crush lightly with a pestle
- Add the ice and cachaça and mix (or give it a good shake)
- Turn on the music and enjoy!
Argentina stands out in my memory as the country with the most staggeringly beautiful landscapes I have been to. I would return to Patagonia in a heartbeat and I dream of the opportunity of traversing the length of it one day.
I would imagine that when you think of Argentinian cuisine you think of Malbec wine and steak. And you wouldn’t be far wrong, their asado (grilled meat) is legendary. The quality of the meat is supreme but the thing I fell in love with was actually their favourite condiment: chimichurri!
Chimichurri is a green salsa made of finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, chilli flakes, olive oil and lemon and is the go to condiment, whether for bread, steak, fish, chicken, potatoes…. The list goes on!
The following recipe is written by Marian Blazes and published on The Spruce Eats
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbs chopped red onion
- 3 cups fresh flat leaf parsley (firmly packed)
- 1 tsp dry oregano (or ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (optional)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tbs red wine vinegar
- 1 tbs lime juice
- Chilli flakes to taste
- Pinch of salt
- Pulse the garlic and red onion in a food processor until they are finely chopped.
- Add the parsley, oregano and cilantro and pulse lightly until the herbs are finely chopped
- Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl
- Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar and lime juice. Stir (adding the liquids outside of the blender gives the right consistency as you don’t want the herbs to be completely pureed)
- Season with salt and red chilli flakes
- Store in the fridge until ready to serve
Dulce de Leche
My other love from Argentina is Dulce de Leche. Those who know me, know how much of a sweet tooth I have, and I have to say, I fit in perfectly in Argentina as they love their chocolate, pastries and sweet desserts.
Dulce de leche is a thick caramel made from condensed milk. On it’s own I can take it or leave it, but turned into ice cream, popped in a pastry, added to a cookie or made into a dessert and I’m in heaven!
I’m going to share two recipes. How to make Dulce de Leche at home, and then how to make a yummy dessert with Dulce de Leche!
Dulce de Leche
Recipe courtesy of my mum!
1 can sweetened condensed milk
- Heat oven to 220 degrees
- Fill a deep oven proof pan with water and put the unopened can of condensed milk in it
- Bake milk in the middle of the over for 45 minutes
- Check water levels and top up if needed, it should always be fully covered.
- Cook for another 45 minutes
- Remove from the oven.
- Allow to cool before opening both ends of the can and pushing the dulce the leche out
The options are now endless! Get a spoon and eat it as it is, or use to make something even nicer like some Salted Caramel Choc Pots
Salted Caramel Choc Pots Recipe
Serves 2, however, if you haven’t eaten all the dulce de leche you may want to make some more.
This recipe is written by Sarah Cook and published on BBC Good Food
- 4 tbsp dulce de leche
- ½ tsp salt
- 85g of milk chocolate, broken into squares
- 85g of dark chocolate, broken into squares
- 100 double cream, at room temperature
- 50 ml milk
- Mix the dulce de leche with the salt, divide between 2 small glasses and chill
- Melt the chocolate together
- Stir the double cream and milk into the remaining melted chocolate until smooth, then scrape into a jug.
- Slowly pour on top of the caramel
- Chill the pots for at least 2 hrs
- To serve, scatter a little more sea salt on top of each pot
My mouth is watering just by writing down that recipe!
If you enjoy cooking and try any of the above. Do let me know how you get on, I’d love to see your creations!