Monday, 31 October 2011

Full of beans

The strong winds and heavy rains last week left me pining for a comforting bowl of flavoursome slow cooked stew.
Feijoada is a bean stew made with pork. In Brazil, Feijoada is considered by many as the national dish, and is also typical in Angola, Mozambique, Goa, and other former Portuguese colonies. In reality Feijoada was brought to South America by the Portuguese, based on ancient bean-and-pork dishes (cozidos) from the Portuguese regions of Beira, Estramadura and Trás-o -montes. Feijoada is a version of southern European stews, like cassoulet from France, Faba from Spain and Ribollita or Minestra from Italy.

Yum Yum Pig´s bum
It was first made by the slave cooks about 300 years ago. Sometimes using parts that normally got left behind like the head, ears, trotters, tongue all chopped up,and mixed with some beans to create this tasty stew. Today it’s served in Michelin star restaurants and homes where choice cuts of meat are used. You will still find many people using the pig’s ears and feet though.
I use only pork,belly, short ribs, smoked chourico and Morcela (blood sausage).If you type Feijoada into the search engine your results will show examples of Brazilian feijoda with black beans, fresh and salted pork, fresh and dried beef, cured sausages, blood sausages, quite an extensive list of ingredients in fact. Northern Portugal’s feijoada however uses white beans, butter beans or pinto beans. My feijoada is a a far cry from the Brazilian one, I only use pork.I also have a secret ingredient - my own home made spicy baked beans. You won’t be committing any sin if you choose more common piggy parts, there’s normally two rules that apply, at least one of the pieces of pork must be cured, smoked or unsmoked and you must use fatty pork of some kind, so bacon is ideal. You can also add cured sausages and or blood sausages. And it is always served with rice.
I made my very simple version, using very little meat for the quantity of beans since I wanted leftover beans, because cooking beans using this method gives them a great flavour.  These beans can then make an ideal accompaniment to other meals. Jacket potatoes with bean topping-YUM.

TOP TIPS -ho hum, pig´s bum
Pre-soaking beans in salted water to keep skins intact
I experimented soaking the beans in salted water before cooking to see what difference it made to the finished cooked beans. In Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfect Chili Con Carne he suggested pre-soaking the beans in brine to stop the skins from breaking, and it hi ho Heston it does.

Salting the Beans Whilst Cooking
There is an old wives tale about salting your beans."Adding salt to the water while cooking will harden the skins therefore you should season them afterwards".  This is SO not the right thing to do.  Beans will absorb their cooking liquor and therefore if the liquor is seasoned this means the beans will be seasoned, and more flavoursome inside.  When you season the beans or any pulses after cooking you’re just seasoning the outside skin and when biting into the bean it will be bland since the mass part of it will be unseasoned. A plumped up bean will have a large starchy inside and all starchy things need salt to bring out their flavour.  If you think about it,all the old fashioned recipes with beans were cooked with a salty piece of meat, usually pork, which provided the seasoning for the beans.  I came across this site  while researching this post and it gives you lots of different information about cooking  beans. For instance the older the beans the longer they will take to cook ( not an old wives tale).

Flavouring your beans
I always add flavours to the pot, an onion, couple of carrots, couple of bay  leaves, maybe some celery, thyme, basically the ingredients you would use  to make a good stock. Beans just love virgin olive oil, they can´t get enough of it and soak it up like thirsty fish. A few tablespoons after cooking adds good flavour to the beans.

Bits on the side
Feijoada is traditionally served with rice, and accompanied by chopped fried greens (couve mineira), lightly roasted coarse cassava flour (farofa) and peeled and sliced orange. Other common side dishes are boiled or deep-fried cassava, deep-fried bananas, and pork rinds (torresmo). A pot of chilli sauce is often provided on the side and Ioften serve a bowl of dry roasted breadcrumbs in place of the farofa or cassava.The idea being that it soaks up the cooking juices.
The meat I had on this occasion was 500g / 1 lb of bacon in one piece from the butcher, slightly smoked, and pork ribs about 6 ribs. I normally use entremeada (belly pork) too. You don’t have to use both, just adding one will still give you good flavour.
This quantity will give you a lot of beans, Freeze what you’re not using to give you a quick supper.  Use these quantities as a guide but you can use however big or small pieces of pork you like, ribs are good idea because they become tender with the long cooking and the meat falls apart.  If using a smoked piece of bacon it will add a subtle smokiness to the beans.

Eeny Beany Miny Moe...

Home made spicy baked beans
500g dried white beans, butter beans or pinto beans
soaked overnight in cold salted water

FOR THE SPICY SAUCE
 4 small red piri piri chillis
small knob of ginger finely chopped
1 stick of lemongrass chopped finely
4 shallots chopped finely
tablespoon coriander stalks chopped finely
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
400g tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped
1.5 teaspoons Flor de sal
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves
sunflower/ nut oil for for frying
Cover the base of a large skillet with some oil.
Over a low heat fry the first 7 ingredients till soft (5-6 minutes). Add the tomatoes and rest of the ingredients stirring the sugar well into the sauce. Continue cooking until reduced to a fairly thick consistency. 
Heat the oven to 150C. Put pre-soaked or ready prepared beans in a large earthenware casserole and mix sauce in well, adding some extra water if it does not cover the beans. cover and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours.



O cozinheiro´s Feijoada a Portuguesa
serves 6

450g spicy baked beans ( as above)
500g entremeada ( belly pork)
6 short pork ribs
175g chouriço
175g toucinho, pancetta or cured bacon ( cubed )
100g Morcela ( blood sausage )
1 medium tomato peeled seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lard
3 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Boil the belly pork and ribs in a pan of water for 1 hour or until tender.Set aside.
meanwhile in another pan cook the cured meats in some boiling water until almost tender
(15-20 minutes) Fry the onions in the lard, together with the tomato, parsley and bay leaf for 4-5 minutes over a low heat.Add all the meat cut into pieces, cook for a further 2-3 minutes, add the beans. Stir in well and transfer to a large casserole or earthenware pot and slow cook in the oven at 150C for a couple of hours checking the liquid level from time to time and adding a little water if it looks too dry.

"It's hard not to be full of beans when you're blessed with a dish like this.

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