What are you eating? Part 1 – Brazil

Over the next few months as we travel through South America we’re hoping to try a few new foods and drinks that will tempt our taste buds. What’s great about travelling is that you don’t need to go to fancy restaurants spending lots of money to enjoy great food. Usually for us, it’s the simple meals we enjoy but we mainly remember that we ate them in the most fabulous of settings.

So let’s start with country number 1 – Brazil

Empanadas
Us Brits love a bit of pastry; sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, tartlets, even a Gregg’s chicken slice tastes great the morning after a boozy night out! After living in Mexico for the last year where pastry products have no place as the mighty taco is the only savory Jefe in town, we knew South America would be able to deliver.
We found Brazil to be exceptionally good value for eating and drinking. So when we found out we could buy empanadas for 50p to £1 each dependant on size, we were going to chomp those pastry parcels regularly.
Brazil offered two types of these snacks mainly to be served with ice-cold beers. Pastels are deep-fried square turnovers of thin crispy pastry with various fillings. We preferred empanadas, these are baked pastry parcels with different shape and crust designs so you can differentiate between spicy chicken, cheese or meat fillings. Delicious, however I’ve designed my own empanadas design…it’s tummy shaped..!

While in Rio we visited the beautiful 1884 Belle Epoch building of Confeitaria Colombo in the historic centre. This grand cafe and restaurant is adorned with huge brocade mirrors, long marble bars are lined with delicious cakes & savoury offerings and massive Tiffany stained glass ceilings complete the decadent decor. Workers stand chatting at tall tables drinking tiny espresso, tourists on the upper mezzanine tuck into elegant afternoon tea and the people of Rio the Cariocas take a table on the lower floor with friends. Maintaining our pastry desires, we enjoyed pastel de nata, these creamy custard tarts were deliciosa.

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Feijoada.
At the end of the 19th century Brazil had many sugar cane & coffee plantations where the landowning master got rich and his slaves toiled the land. When a pig was killed the master had first dibs on the best cuts, while the slaves would be given the tripe, head and trotters to accompany their basic bean & rice diet. The national dish of feijoada – pronounced something like feshwada, was born. The piggy odds and ends would be stewed in one pot with the beans overnight to release the pork flavours tenderising the meat. Blood sausages and chorizo style sausages would be made from any leftovers. The feijoada dinner is traditionally served on Saturdays at the end of the working week after the stew has simmered for up to 24 hours.

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The thick bean stew is served with rice, collard greens, root vegetable manioc is roasted, heart stopping chunks of dry crispy crackling are served on the side, toasted farofa – manioc flour is sprinkled on top to complete the dish. Slices of oranges and measures of cachaca help digestion of this salty tasty filling dish. We sampled this traditional Saturday dinner in one of the Ipanema restaurants but declined trying the pig ears!

Caipirinha
These renown Rio delicious cocktails are mixed with the Brazilian version of moonshine called cachaca. This super strong 40% alcohol is fermented from sugar cane and historically stems back to the sugar plantations. Added to this fiery hooch are limes, sugar and plenty of ice.  Addictive and lethal!

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Beach Drinks
All along the famous stretches of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches you can find plenty of beach huts selling cold green coconuts that the owners expertly machete the tops off in star shapes to provide a healthy refreshing drink for the price of, well coconuts.

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Freezy cold cervejas – beer in cans are sold for about 60p and in all the bars away from the beaches you can buy Chopp – the generic name for draught beer, we liked Brahma the best.
Sitting on the beach in my new Havaianas with a great view drinking a beer – priceless!

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Acai
This purple wonder berry from the Amazon is a super food with antioxidant and anti-aging properties that can promote weight loss. All that from one little berry with a name that confuses, pronounced Asighee!
The berries are whizzed into juices or smoothies for the health conscious but they are mainly served everywhere as purple cups of whipped up frozen sorbet. Definitely counts as one of my five a day right?

Buffets
Buffet restaurants all over Brazil offer a variety of hot and cold foods that you can fill your plate with. Plates are then weighed and you are charged a fixed price by the 100 grams. Price is dependent on the quality of restaurant and choices offered. Some buffets charge by the kilo. We only tried a buffet once for the experience of seeing how much our meals weighed and as it was a cheap good value meal option.

Next up Argentina – steak and wine!

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