| by Drew Middleton
To celebrate this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, our resident food writer and recipe creator Laoise Casey shares two mouth-wateringly easy Brazilian recipes for your lunch box whilst paying homage to the diverse, fresh and colourful ingredients of South America.
Brazilian rum poured over crushed ice, stirred together with mint, a squeeze of lime – you pick up your caipirinha and look at the kitchen table: a bowl of pāo de queijo (cheese bread) within arm’s reach – fresh from the oven – you tear one open to reveal a fluffy cheese centre.
Meanwhile you’re thinking ahead to the main course of chicken with a generous drizzle of chimichurri sauce spiked with herbs and spice and a side of roasted sweet potatoes, black eyed beans and sweetcorn. Sigh. This is one of my lunch box dreams. Time to stop dreaming and get cooking. Here’s how to create your own Brazilian inspired lunch.
As the Summer Olympics kicked off last Friday in Rio de Janeiro I’ve been thinking a whole lot about Brazilian food. With a combination of Portuguese, African and Japanese influences Brazilian food is a beautiful melting pot.
These diverse influences coupled with the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available the whole year round makes Brazilian cuisine a tapestry of flavours. Key ingredients include beans, cassava flour (a gluten free flour made from the cassava root), yams, mangoes, plantains and coconuts. Fish also plays a prominent role.
One of its most well known dishes is feijoada – a bean and meat stew traditionally eaten with rice. Bite sized snacks feature heavily also like those pāo de queijo, or pastel (deep fried savoury pastries – yes please).
If that’s piped your interest and you want to learn more about this wonderful cuisine I highly recommend ‘Brazilian Food’ by Thiago Castanho and Luciana Bianchi. It’s packed full of recipes including a green mango salad with rose apple, plantain gnocchi and even a Brazilian jerk beef crumble.
For our Summer Olympics Rio inspired lunch I’ve taken two recipes that pay tribute to Brazilian food as well as being quick, easy and delicious. That cheese bread (stop press – it’s actually gluten free too) and pan-fried chicken with chimichurri sauce and a sweet potato salad. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I do. Bon appétit or bom proveito as they say in Brazil.
Fluffy cheese puffs. Need I say more? Ok then, I’ll tell you all about these little beauties. Perfect snacks to store in your Box Appetit.
Brazilian cheese bread or pāo de queijo is a fluffy cheesy mini bread roll. Imagine a gougère if you will. Cheese bread is made with tapioca flour so has the added advantage of being gluten free if that’s your thing.
Like a lot of things they are best enjoyed straight from the oven, but if you want to pack them in your lunch box they are perfect sandwich material the day after cooking. Who am I kidding I tend to eat most of them straight from the oven.
When I do manage to keep them I like to tear them apart and fill them with a little slice of Parma ham for a mini cheese and ham sandwich. In this version I’m using butter to make them extra fluffy. You can substitute this for vegetable oil instead if you prefer.
Soya milk can also be used instead of cow’s milk if you want to make it dairy free. You could also try using different cheese, adding extra herbs and spices to make your own customised version. This recipe makes 24 rolls. I normally make a batch and then freeze half of them. You can also freeze the dough on the day you make it (wrap tightly in cling film or in a freezer bag).
150 ml whole milk
100g butter, in cubes
300g tapioca flour
Pinch of sea salt
100g parmesan (or 50g parmesan and 50g Gruyère)
You can make this by hand or with an electric mixer. Preheat oven to 220C. Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until the butter melts. Sift the tapioca flour into the mixing bowl with a pinch of sea salt. Pour the milk and butter on top and mix well until the dough cools. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth and glossy. Add the grated cheese and mix well until fully incorporated.
Using a tablespoon (or an ice cream scoop works well) scoop out 1 tablespoon balls onto greaseproof paper. If you leave them in the fridge for approximately 20 minutes it is easier to shape them into smooth balls before cooking. Bake on greaseproof paper on a baking sheet for 30 minutes or until crisp or golden.
For our second Rio inspired recipe we’re taking some simple ingredients and adding a little Brazilian twist. Sometimes chicken has a bad reputation for being tasteless and bland – but with a little love in the cooking process you can turn it into a quick inviting lunch or dinner. It’s all about caramelising the chicken breast when cooking it, then covering to allow the chicken to finish cooking by steaming in its own juices.
Chimichurri sauce is a spicy herb sauce traditionally used to garnish grilled meats in Brazil. You make your own version as spicy as you like – I like a bit of kick but adjust the amount of spice as you like. Drizzled on top of our golden chicken. With a side salad of some colourful vegetables - we’re talking sweet potatoes, black eyed beans and sweetcorn.
1 free-range chicken breast (150g – 200g)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
50g cooked black-eyed beans
50g tinned sweetcorn
A handful parsley leaves
½ small shallot
½ small clove garlic
Small pinch of chilli flakes
Sea salt, cracked black pepper to season
Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out the chicken breast to even thickness using a rolling pin. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. When hot add the chicken breast and cook on each side until golden brown. Do not move while cooking to allow the chicken to brown. Finish cooking in the oven for 5 minutes. I like to cover the pan while it is in the oven so that the chicken cooks in its own steam and is more juicy.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest. Roughly chop the sweet potatoes into cubes (no need to peel). Place on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and season well. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through. When the potatoes are cooked mix in a bowl with the black-eyed peas and sweetcorn. Check the seasoning.
Finely chop the parsley, garlic and shallot and place in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the red wine vinegar and chilli flakes and then whisk in 2 tbsp. olive oil. Season to taste. Slice the chicken breast into slices, finish with a drizzle of chimichurri sauce on top. Serve with the roasted sweet potato salad.