Feijoada is widely accepted as the Brazilian national dish. To get in the mood for the Rio Olympics, I thought I’d give it a go making it myself. My initial problem was that I wasn’t sure how to pronounce Feijoada! Here are a few suggested phonetic descriptions I found on the internet: “fay-ZWAH-da” / “fay-ZHWA-dah” / “fayzhe-wada”.
I first tried this stew when visiting the London Victoria branch of the Brazilian steak house franchise, Rodizio Preto with some friends from work. These restaurants are great fun, particularly in a big group. While the focus of these places is the spit-roasted meats served by the skewer-wielding waiters (Passadors), they also have a large casserole of Feijoada keeping warm as part of the buffet. My impression was that it was nice, a bit plain, but with the potential to be something extraordinary.
The history of Feijoada seems to be well-studied with various writings and differing theories of its origin – including being traced back to sugar plantation workers making the most of discarded cuts of meat (ears, nose and toes) and cheap beans. It also has similarities to European dishes, such as French Cassoulet and Portuguese bean stews.
In the book Heliopolis by James Scudamore, the dish is described as follows:
“If cooking feijão is an exercise in loading the beans with whatever flavour you can summon, then feijoada is about overkill…Every mouthful is different and the dark, glossy sauce is enriched by every dried, salted, fresh, or smoked cut you throw in … from the new cuts – smoked pork sausages, loin chops and belly, jerked and salted beef, salt pork – to the old cuts … ears, tails, trotters.”
Food writer and journalist Tim Hayward includes a description and recipe for Feijoada in his excellent The DIY Cook book. He conjures up the image of inebriated friends gathering round a table to enjoy the stew, following it with a nap, and then setting off to carnival. The pleasure of a large slow-cooked pork, sausage and bean stew has not been missed by Jay Rayner, who in his book The Ten (food) Commandments, includes in his chapter “Honour Thy Pig” a delicious recipe for a pork, chorizo and butter bean stew.
The following recipe is an amalgam of various others I have found, and inevitably influenced by the ingredients that I could source. Apologies to any Brazilians as I’m sure this recipe probably couldn’t be classed as authentic. It’s well worth tracking down a pig’s trotter as it adds a wonderful flavour, and glossy gelatinous texture to the stew.
As a tip, its worth visiting a Polish deli when trying to source your pork. My local on George Street in Hove (Polskie Delikatesy w Hove) had pigs’ trotters, a good selection of smoked sausages, smoked pork fat, pork shoulder, and smoked ribs.
I also wanted to include some beef, so attempted to make Carne Seca the week before, following a method I found on Eat Rio’s blog. However, the weather here in Hove was not warm enough to dry the salted beef outdoors. So I left the meat in the oven, and it got accidentally partially baked! I still soaked it in water before using it in the following stew, and it was thankfully very tasty.
Accompany the stew with a few cold Brahma beers, shots of Cachaça, or Caipirinha cocktails. Alternatively, if feeling a little more sophisticated, seek out a bottle of Brazilian red wine. We are starting to see a few on supermarket shelves in Britain, with Waitrose having a small selection. We went for a Riqueza Reserva Pinot Noir. This smooth wine matched well, having a little spice that complimented the smoky meats, and a bit of fruitiness to go with the orange.
Skill level: Easy
Equipment required: Large casserole dish with lid, heavy meat cleaver for splitting a pig’s trotter (Or ask your butcher to do it for you), slow-cooker – optional
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3-4 hours
Pork ribs, diced pork shoulder, split pig’s trotter half, smoked sausage or chorizo, salted and dried beef (Carne Seca), or corned beef – Whatever you can source, in the quantities that you fancy…
Pork fat (smoked), bacon lardons, or pancetta – for frying
2 cans of black beans
1 medium onion, roughly diced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 fresh red chilli
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Long grain white rice
Fresh orange slices
Spring greens shredded
Step 1: In a casserole dish, dry-fry your pork fat (substituting lardons or pancetta) to render down. Once you have sufficient liquid fat to cover the bottom of the pan, scoop out the porky remains using a slotted spoon before they burn.
Step 2: Brown the raw meat (diced pork shoulder, split pig’s trotter half) in the casserole dish in batches, remove and set aside.
Step 3: In the same dish fry the onions until translucent, add back the browned meat, smoked meats and salted/corned beef. Empty both cans of black beans (including all the liquid) into the casserole, and add the whole cloves of garlic, bay leaf, thyme, whole chilli and peppercorns. Add water to ensure that all the meat is covered. Place a lid on the casserole and gently simmer (or transfer to the slow cooker, if using one).
Step 4: Gently cook the covered Feijoada either on the stove or in the oven for approximately 3 hours. If using a slow-cooker, aim for 5 hours. Occasionally stir the casserole, checking liquid levels and seasoning. Add more water and/or salt if needed. Because this recipe uses smoked meats, sausages and salted beef I judged that I didn’t need to add any additional salt. This dish will be cooked when you can cut the pork shoulder meat with a spoon.
Step 5: 15 minutes before serving, begin boiling the rice and saute the spring greens with a little white onion. This is a good time to stir into the Feijoada a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
Step 6: This dish is best placed on the table for diners to help themselves. Before presenting your casserole you might want to remove the bay leaf, thyme sprigs, rib bones (most of the meat should have fallen off), and half trotter.Find Flavour Seeker on social media: