on 10 July 2011
I have never been so torn about a recipe book. It's like a culinary version of the legendary split personality of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One the one hand, this book contains the type of traditional Brazilian dishes that I was after. On the other hand, the author presents us with contemporary recipes that sparkle and stun with the sheer volume of creativity and sophistication they reflect; but it is clear from reading them that this style of cooking (elegant as it no doubt is) lacks the charm, the heart, and the soul of the true Brazil. It will always be reserved to those gourmet temples people like Claude Troisgros established in Rio and Sao Paulo, and a culinary elite of advanced foodies - forever separated from the food of the ordinary men and women of Brazil.
In other words, I was not prepared for such an array of European-style cooking with a Brazilian veneer. Fusion is not really my thing. And yet, Leticia singlehandedly sold some of those recipes to me. These are:
Pineapple & Manchego Skewers - the pineapple is tossed in a chile-flavored caramel sauce
Salmon with Caipirinha Risotto - a creamy risotto flavored with lime juice and cachaca
Red Pepper and Brazil Nut Pesto - a red bell pepper puree with ground Brazils and malagueta chiles
Fish in Spiced Honey - succulent halibut in a honey-orange marinade then oven-cooked
The dessert chapter is where new-style Brazilian cooking departs from culinary snobbery, to form an entity with the real Brazil:
A dark chocolate version of the famous brigadeiros
Avocado Creme Brulee
Guava Paste Souffle with Mascarpone Cream (a recipe credited to reputable Brazilian chef Carla Pernambuco)
Coconut Cheesecake with Guava Sauce
These are featured alongside the longstanding Brazilian dishes that have evolved over the centuries from Portuguese, indigenous, and African roots, thus creating the unique combination of flavors and textures that are the spirit and soul of Brazilian cooking, and without the pretentiousness of haute cuisine:
Fish Moqueca - a spicy fish stew in coconut and tomato
Ximxim de galinha - the famous Bahian surf-n-turf of chicken and shrimp with a coconut-cashew-peanut sauce
Chicken Moqueca - stew with chicken, bell peppers, plantains, and coconut
Vatapa - (here you might want to add some dried shrimp to the puree for authenticity; the Chinese ones we get here are quite meaty)
Canja de galinha - a simple and tasty chicken soup with rice (though this one's perhaps more Portuguese than Brazilian)
Brazilian Chicken Pie
Beef Jerky Empanadas
Acaraje - Black-eyed Pea fritters (with or without shrimp)
... and of course Pao de queijo - cheese-infused mini dinner rolls
Though I have a real bone of contention that needs to be aired. The book shines through the seeming absence of an editor. And an editor would've been much needed: fully repeated sentence in one instance; inconsistent accentuation; differing information in the same recipe about how long something can be frozen for; ingredients mixed with others, then re-added out of thin air; the linking of Cheddar cheese to Mexico... Things like that. Please don't panic, as you'll notice long before you start to question your sanity; but it does give the impression that the author wasn't completely with it when she wrote the book.
Another thing that I personally don't like is that instructions on how to prepare ingredients most of us will probably use infrequently - like salt cod, yucca, and pastry cream - are given in one recipe, and then you get referred to that page in subsequent recipes. I just hate flipping back and fro, then back again through a book to cook one dish.
But I love the book nevertheless, as it gave me what I was looking for: traditional Brazilian recipes. I now have a sizeable collection (together with those in Elisabeth Luard's "The Latin American Kitchen," which is now sadly out of print).
5 stars for creativity. 5 stars for flavor. 5 stars for execution. 5 stars for promoting a truly fascinating, though not yet so widely known, cuisine. And most importantly, the recipes work. 5 stars for that, too.
on 13 March 2015
Great book and very good condition. A good addiction to our small gastronomic library. I particularly enjoy the fluid explanations and the conversational tone the writer lends to the text. Pictures are good although not always a true representation of the dish recipe on the same page. Recipes are a mix of traditional and more upbeat and modern dishes which is always a good idea. The history behind each dish is interesting, although a bit shallow. But hey, this isn't a History book. I believe the writer could have mentioned that some of the dishes relies on ingredients that are not easily found, or may be protected for environmental reasons, since we have many vegetables in Brazil that are on the edge of extinction because of over exploitation. A bit more attention could have been given to the spelling but all in all it is a nice and colourful experience through an essential part of the Brazilian culture.