Thursday, February 13, 2014

In the Kitchen: Smoky Vegetarian Feijoada


So it's taken me many, many tries to get this recipe right and I think I've finally nailed it! My smoky and spicy version of Brasil's national dish doesn't taste like the real thing, but it's full of flavor and low in fat. Perfect for vegetarians and healthy for diabetics. Now for a bit of background...

In Rio, restaurants often advertised feijoada like a special Sunday roast, served with a side of live Samba music. Although its origins are linked to Portugal, in Brazil it's a historical dish linked back to slave quarter days when servants would collect the unwanted leftover meats from their masters and stew it together with black beans. Today Brazilian feijoada is made with pork and beef, but you can still find authentic stews with trotters, tails and all. I would assume that all feijoada is made this way; however, the more adventurous bits are removed before it hits tourist plates. 

So traditional feijoada involves stewing the beans for hours with pork and it's the fat and muscle that give flavor to this dish. But all is not lost if you are vegetarian or for diabetics who need to keep tabs on saturated fat. My version has a lovely smoky taste from charred grilled vegetables and takes much less time than the original recipe.

Serves 2

1 1/2 cup of dry black beans
2 garlic cloves whole
2 shallots or 1 medium onion halved
4 sprigs of cilantro
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 can of sweet corn
1/2 large eggplant
1 large red bell pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 red chili halved or 2 chipotle peppers
avocado for garnish
sea salt

I recommend using dry black beans, but canned beans will work if your tight on time. Measure out your dry beans, remove any stones or dodgy looking beans and then soak them in a large cooking pot for at least 8 hours. It's important to soak the beans because it will reduce the cooking time, but it will also help reduce gas and bloating. Remember the rhyme? I sure do...

Step 1
Rinse out the beans and refill the pot with fresh clean water. I had a couple of inches of water on top of the beans. Add the garlic, onions, red chili, cilantro, and bouillon cubes. Unfortunately they do not sell chipotle peppers in Rio but I think they would be awesome in this recipe. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Leave the beans to cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Step 2
Whilst your beans are cooking prepare your vegetables. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Drain the canned corn and place on a baking tray with a little bit of oil and tiny dash of salt. Pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until they start looking a little toasty. There are many ways you can char grill the vegetables - a bbq, in the oven under high heat or grill setting or over a gas stove. We have a gas stove and I find it to be the quickest and easiest way to get my veggies charred. Place your rinsed halved eggplant and whole bell pepper onto a grilling rack over high heat. If you don't have a grilling rack then no problemo, just balance them directly on the hob. Make sure the skin is evenly blackened on all sides and then remove and let cool down. Half the whole bell pepper, remove the core and seeds and then gently scrape off the blacked skin with a knife. The charred skin will actually come off really easily and requires very little pressure. Leave the eggplant with the skin intact. Chop your bell peppers and eggplant into chunks.

Step 3
Now back to the beans...the beans are ready when they are soft and slightly breaking down. Taste your beans and season with sea salt if needed. Remove half of the cooked beans along with the garlic, onions, wilted cilantro, chillies and most of the remaining liquid and put into a blender. Puree and taste the puree to see if it needs more salt. I feel like beans require a good amount of salt, so it's important to taste as you go along. I've also over salted my beans before, so add gradually. Pour the mixture back in with the rest of your beans and add the sweet corn, bell peppers and eggplant.

Continuing cooking over a low heat until the eggplant is fully cooked and voila!

Black beans are really healthy and great for diabetics. Their rich coloring is due to antioxidants, they are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. They are also high in carbs too, but their nutritional make-up actually keeps blood sugars in check. Traditionally feijoada is served with all kinds of goodies including rice and farofa, dried yucca flour, but I think a hearty green salad is more balanced.

Great reads for this post:
If you want to have a go at the real deal, here's a great meaty feijoada recipe
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