Feijouada is the national dish of Brazil, a rich dark bean stew and, like all such recipes, as much a cultural phenomenon as a recipe, with roots in poverty and slavery, a never-ending debate as to the correct ingredients and a string of myths about its preparation and consumption. There are regional variations in the beans used, but black or ‘turtle’ beans are my particular favourite. The stew should contain both beef and pork – some portion of which can be dried and some of which should be smoked. Offal may be involved. There’s nothing unusual in the spicing or flavouring of feijouada, it’s just built up, over time, into a monumental party dish – impossible to make in small quantities, and legends surround the eating. It’s considered correct to pause eating occasionally to take shots of cachaça, a lethal white alcohol which somehow mitigates the overdose of beans and meat. It’s also the only dish I know where sleep is part of the recipe. You are supposed to have at least a couple of hours of kip after eating and before returning to the carnival to dance your ass off. I’ve suggested ingredients and quantities here, but feel free to diverge. At last count there were around 195 million people in Brazil, almost none of whom will agree on the recipe. Yours is statistically likely to be authentic to somebody. The nicest thing about this recipe is that it’s not about any particular technique, more about assembling the ingredients you can – economy or discarded cuts of meat, cheap beans – in such a way as to do them most justice. The flavours combine the way they wish … we’re not going to do anything to wrench them in any direction, and the results need to be enjoyed by a group of hungry, friendly and preferably at least partially drunk people – this recipe is based on you and seven lightly pickled friends, but it’s easier to make it bigger than smaller. Leftovers freeze well.
|500g||piece of bacon, salt pork or petit salé|
|1||smoked pork hock|
|500g||smoked pork sausage|
|500g||carne seca, or 2 tins of corned beef|
|1||split pig’s trotter|
|1||head of garlic|
Soak the beans overnight. Soak the salt pork too if it’s a particularly vicious cure. Discard all the soaking water.
Put all the meats into a large pot (if using tinned corned beef, leave that until later), cover with cold water and bring up to a simmer; they will cook at different speeds, so use a slotted spoon or ‘spider’ to remove each piece as it’s done.
The pork hock will probably ‘go’ first, becoming tender and beginning to fall apart after a couple of hours. Lift it out and shred off the meat. The carne seca will be done when it’s soft and can be flaked. The bacon can be cut into chunks once soft but the trotter should be left in until the end, when it’s pretty much given up the ghost. Rescue it before it completely collapses, but only long enough to pick out the bones and any truly unsavoury bits of cartilage. Chop the skin into small dice and put it straight back into the water. Cut the sausage into big, ugly chunks.
Add the drained beans along with the head of garlic sliced across its middle. Float this on the surface. Simmer until the beans are soft, then retrieve the garlic head, squeeze out the softened cloves into a cup or bowl and put them to one side.
Add the meats to the beans and continue to cook at as low a heat as you can manage for as long as feels appropriate. The beans will get softer, the meat flakier, more juices and fats will be absorbed and the whole thing will just get more and more spectacular as time goes on. If using tinned corned beef, add it about 30 minutes before serving and beat it about a bit so that it breaks down completely into the juices.
Like most recipes of its type, feijouada gets even better if rested overnight and then reheated.
Serve with white rice into which you can stir the softened garlic pulp you saved earlier. On the side you’ll need the kale, shredded very fine and steamed, and, on top, thick slices of orange.