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Where's Jonny? Care to dine with me? You would think that 11 years of daily food tasting for a living might put me off?......au contraire! Chomp away with me across 6 continents. Seduced like a bloodhound to the scent of good food, I anticipate the misty waft of steaming broths, the satisfying crunch of mudbugs and the vibrant aroma of freshly pulverised lemongrass. Buon appetito

Getting into a stew

BRAZIL | Sunday, 30 September 2007 | Views [1493]

"Feijoada," could be classed as Brazils National dish.  A rich pork and bean stew traditionally eaten at weekends, it reminded me of the Sunday roast Brits used to sit down for.

Even today, many restaurants only serve the dish on a Saturday, although "Casa de Feijoada," a specialist restaurant in trendy Ipanema, Rio, serves the stuff all week.

After cycling along two beachfronts to the place, I could have eaten a pig whole (which would become ironic later) but Maria, on a health mission, was proposing to stick to salads.

As we were led across the dinky restaurant by our bow-tied waiter, Maria suggested she like some lettuce and tomatoes.  There was a short elapse of time as the waiter decided if he had heard correctly.

"Malsie," I said discreetly, "they serve one thing in Casa de Feijoada, and I don't think its salads."

The diet was officially on hold and a brief exchange of Portuguese, French, English, Italian and sign language ensued.  There were no menus, just conversation to establish the meal.  We reckoned we'd ordered  dishes containing the words, traditional, molho, hoof, bean, pork and rib. 

Pickings of green olives and strangely unsalted, herby feta arrived on skewers followed by tiny teracotta cups of red bean soup.  It was the first of many bean concoctions.  We lifted up the cups to capture the porky morsels which had sunk to the bottom.  Delicious.

Dishes began to emerge from all angles and placed on our white-clothed table like a small banquet. 

There were orange slices, red chillis in oil, a basket of crostini and then sizzling cubes of crispy pork straight from a cast iron pan.

A waistcoated man with excessive paunch and breathing difficulties wandered over with two colourful liquors.  I thought it a touch early for the hard stuff, but I'm all for tradition, so I indicated I'd like to try the maracuca (passionfruit).  Zingy, viscose and alcoholic its sharp-sweet balance was very pleasant.  The waiter then suggested it was good for depression!  Did he mean it would give me depression?

After two jugs of "suco" (squeezed lemon and orange juice) served with sugar, we were already enjoying an interesting meal.

However, when the "piece de la resistance," was ceremoniously brought over, we were overwhelmed.  The man with excessive paunch was proudly carrying a large steaming clay pot.  It contained 2 types of pork sausage, smoked pork loin and beef ribs swimming in a thick broth of dark maroon beans.  This, is turned out, was just for Maria.  He had other plans for me.

On his return with another huge pot, I noticed that one of his waistcoat buttons was missing.  It came as no surprise; pressure had been building for some time.

A clay pot of bubbling bits was laid next to me.  Laying, as if in wait, under the salty, savoury skin that was forming on the surface were gluteny pigs trotters complete with black hooves and boney tails.  This was the "traditional dish." Oh well, man or mouse?

As I delved into the chocolate coloured sauce, more accompaniments made an appearance.  Thinly sliced celery mixed with tiny kidney beans helped alleviate some of the richness, whilst delicate pork scratchings in another bowl gave textural contrast.  There was sandy coloured "Farhina" (manioc flour), shredded kale and white rice all in separate bowls.

Another huge bowl of thin soup was placed in the middle of the table. It contained......... yes you've guessed it, more beans.  It seemed that beans, means...Brazil, at this stage.

As I slurped some of the soup I crunched down hard on one of the beans.  Maria looked up concerned I had broken a tooth.  Glancing at the offending article on my spoon, I realised it was not a bean at all.

It was a waistcoat button!  Maybe I should have given it back but it would only have ended up in someone else meal. 

Collectively we found the meal to be comforting, rich and satisfying.  Surprisingly, it was not too fatty or heavy.  The dish reminded me of the slow-cooked, Spanish dish, "Fabada," which contains white beans, chorizo and morcilla.

We left Casa de Feijoada full of beans.

The wind in Rio blew that night and the trumpets played loudly in Copacabana.

Tags: Food & eating

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