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Carnival cuisine: Brazilian recipes

Carnival cuisine: Brazilian recipes

Posted by Laura Zúñiga on March 21, 2014

Brazilian food is beginning to attract our attention, not least because of chefs such as Alex Atala of restaurant DOM, voted sixth-best in the world last year. Atala is famous for taking native Brazilian ingredients and shaping them into world-class creations to rival the food of the current European superstars, such as Spaniard Joan Roca and Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma.

And yet despite Atala’s furious flag-flying – a chef’s metaphor, perhaps, for ordem e progresso (or “order and progress”, the national motto) on the culinary world stage, the huge richness of Brazilian food remains underexposed compared to its South American neighbours Argentina and Peru.

Could you have told me, for example, about the myriad ways in which Brazilian cooks use cassava? Or that in Carnival next week they’ll be eating salsichao from street food stalls? My suspicion is that most people’s knowledge of Brazilian gastronomy will begin and end with a token caipirinha as they watch the World Cup this summer.

This is in part because so many of the ingredients championed by Atala and his counterparts do not travel well (although the recipes below are achievable in a UK kitchen). But Brazilians themselves are now engaging more actively in their national traditions – and food is no exception. Chef Samantha Aquim, known in Brazil for her premium chocolate brand Aquim, assured me that a new pride in things that reflect authentic Brazil is emerging, crushing the prevailing stereotype of ''beans, samba and dancing”.

At more than three million square miles and nearly 200 million people, however, Brazil spans an area as diverse as it is vast. It can be crudely divided into four culinary regions: the Amazon, where indigenous customs prevail; the North-East, where seafood becomes a canvas for typical Afro-Brazilian ingredients such as palm oil and coconut, and the South and South-East, inland and coastal respectively, where you’ll find plates with a triptych of meat, rice and beans.

 

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