Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, in terms both of surface area and human population. This means that the country - which accounts for approximately half the land mass of the South American continent - knows a great deal of cultural diversity, especially perhaps when it comes to food. Brazil is also a former Portuguese colony and Portuguese is still the language spoken in Brazil, unlike most other countries in the region where Spanish is the recognized first language of choice. The dish feijoada is Portuguese in origin but is hugely popular in Brazil and is considered by many to be the top candidate for being the country's national dish. There are many versions of Brazilian feijoada but the two staple ingredients are black beans and pork.
Brazil is famous for its carnivals, its beaches, its samba dancing and even for the mighty Amazon river and its associated rain forests - but if there is one thing Brazil is truly famous for on a grassroots, planetary scale, it must be the legendary football/soccer teams and players it has produced over the decades. Although Brazil may not currently be the reigning champions in the world's most popular sport, names from the past such as Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and countless more mean they will always be associated with class and the pinnacle of success in the game. The presentation of this dish, with a mock football/soccer ball in the center of the plate, is a tribute to Brazil's past achievements in its favorite sport.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1 large smoked ham hock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small white onion
- 4 medium white cabbage leaves
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 14 ounce can black beans in water
- 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 12 slices chorizo
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) basmati or long grain rice
- 8 slices from mini blood sausage/black pudding
- Basil leaves to garnish
Put the ham hock in to a very large pot with the bay leaves and black peppercorns and pour in enough cold water to ensure it is comfortably covered. Put the pot on to a high heat to bring the water to a simmer then adjust the heat to just maintain the simmer. Cover the pot and cook for two hours to ensure the meat is tender to the stage that it is almost starting to fall off the bone. Do check the pot every so often to make sure the water level remains high enough. More boiling water can easily be added if required.
Skim off accumulated impurities each time you check the pot with a large spoon or ladle.
Lift the ham hock from the water with a carving fork or large slotted spoon and sit it on a plate. Cover it and leave it for about an hour to cool.
When the hock is cool, peel off and discard the skin. Pluck the meat from the bone with your hands in small clumps.
Wash the cabbage leaves, shake dry, roll and shred with a sharp knife. Peel and slice the onion and peel and finely dice the garlic cloves. Add two of the tablespoons of olive oil to a large, non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Put the cabbage, onion and garlic in the pan with the smoked paprika and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring everything around with a wooden spoon.
When the cabbage and onion are softened, drain the black beans through a colander, rinse briefly under running cold water and add them to the pan, along with the ham. Stir well.
Pour the canned tomatoes in to the pan, stir again and bring to a very gentle simmer for the time it takes to prepare the rice.
Put a large pot of salted water on to reach a boil. Put the rice in a fine meshed sieve and wash thoroughly under running cold water. When the water starts to boil, add the rice, stir well and adjust the heat as necessary to simmer for ten minutes.
The blood sausage/black pudding slices are going to be made to represent the panels on the rice ball in the center of the serving plates. While the rice is cooking, slice eight quarter inch thick slices from the mini sausage/pudding. Pour the remaining couple of tablespoons of oil in to a small non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium heat. Fry the little slices for a couple of minutes each side over a low to medium heat and remove to a holding plate. Drain the rice through a sieve and allow to steam off and dry out for a few minutes.
The panels seen on soccer balls are usually pentagonal or hexagonal. The next step therefore is to carefully trim the blood sausage slices in to shape. There's no need to take too much time over this or to be too pedantic. Approximations will still look good on the serving plate.
Line two small bowls with plastic wrap, ensuring you have plenty of overhang, and lay one blood sausage slice in the base of each.
Spoon some rice in to each dish and pack it down moderately firmly with the back of your spoon. You want to fill the dishes at this stage to the point where the remaining available depth is approximately equal to the diameter of the blood pudding slices.
Carefully intersperse three slices of the sausage around the edges of the dish as shown and fill the bowls right to the top with rice, packing it down again with your spoon.
Lay a large serving plate on top of each bowl and holding the bowl in one hand and the plate in the other, carefully invert. Make sure the bowls are in the dead center of the plates before holding the edges of the plastic wrap tight against the plate and lifting the bowl gently free.
The plastic wrap can then be gently peeled off. Hopefully, you will now have what could pass as a half football/soccer ball in the middle of each plate.
The chorizo is ready to eat as is but I wanted to briefly heat it through.All I did was cut quarter inch thick slices and fry them gently for a minute each side in the pan used to fry the blood pudding earlier.
The feijoada should be tasted at this point and the seasoning adjusted if required by adding salt and pepper. Use a serving spoon to spoon it carefully around the half ball on each plate. Lay the chorizo slices on top of the feijoada. Roll and shred six to eight basil leaves and scatter as a final garnish.