We learn the most from our mistakes!

A Taste of Brazil (c)I am sure that even Gordon Ramsay messes up recipes sometimes. Come on, he has to, right? Making mistakes and messing up in the kitchen is all part of becoming a good cook. Every chef has made one big mistake in the kitchen or has had a simple recipe go completely wrong or mix up the salt for the sugar. Making mistakes is important to learning how to cook and how to become better at cooking. Actually, making mistakes is part of becoming better at anything.

A Taste of Brazil (c)Just because I post pictures of my successful recipes does not mean that I don’t have complete failures in the kitchen or absolute melt downs. Just ask my husband, he would be more than happy to share the countless times that something has not worked out properly or I have thrown the empty bowl of cake batter across the kitchen. It happens to the best  of us.

I wanted to learn how to cook Brazilian food and I knew that meant that there would be disasters, failures and hair-pulling moments. But, always, along the way there have been wonderful successes. After persevering I have mastered some delicious Brazilian foods and am always hungry for more recipes.

This weekend I had a complete and utter failure in the kitchen. A recipe that should have worked fine was an absolute disaster. Ok, the pão de queijo was edible, but it looked terrible, stuck to the ramekins and had no flavor.

A Taste of Brazil (c)I used my blender pão de queijo recipe that has always worked perfectly for me. But, this weekend absolutely FAILED. Instead of letting this defeat me it motivated me to be more careful with my baking and to analyze whether I couldn’t improve this recipe (see, out of failure comes greatness…hopefully!). I quickly discovered why my recipe probably failed this weekend, it was because I used a different  type of cheese, instead of using a hard cheese I used a creamier cheese. But, still I am now on a mission to see whether this recipe can’t be improved.

So the lesson of the day people is to NEVER, EVER give up!

Failed pão de queijo

The mass of failed pão de queijo!

 

Rural Brazil – Curing Cheese

How to cure fresh cheese

I’m not sure if it is just because I live very far from stores, or really anything for that matter, or if it is really because this is something I like to do, but I try to make as much as I possibly can at home. Whether it be, jam, tomato sauce, bread, granola, soap or cheese, you can be pretty sure that I make it on a regular basis here on my farm. There is no question that I enjoy making my own things. I make bread on a bi-weekly basis and I love it. There is nothing better than digging into a fresh homemade loaf of bread. The same goes for jam. Sounds silly, but I often find that what I make at home tastes so much better than anything I can buy at the store.

So, after almost a year of buying fresh cheese from my neighbor, my husband thought it was time that we tried to cure some of the fresh cheese and see if we could diversify our cheeses at home (we had basically just been eating fresh cheese for months). I bought a couple of cheeses and put them in a cheese mold on a plate and left them to sit for several weeks. For the first week I had to remove the whey that accumulated on the plate everyday. I also turned the cheeses daily. After a week most of the whey had been released from the cheese. I left the cheese for about another 2 to 3 weeks, turning it every few days. Once the cheese had developed a nice protective crust I removed it from the cheese mold so that it had more access to air and could dry a little quicker.

At some point, about 3 weeks after we began the curing process, my husband and I decided it was time to try the cheese. It was absolutely amazing. The flavor was rich, it was not too hard and was perfect for eating with toast, on crackers or using in pão de queijo.

We were onto something with our cheese curing and so began my mania of trying to find the perfect way to cure cheese.

I tried soaking the fresh cheeses in a brine of approximately 50% water and 50% salt. I left some cheeses for 24 hours in the brine and others for almost a week. After soaking in the brine I left the cheeses on plates to cure. Some of the cheeses I weighed down with a stone cheese weight to try to press out as much liquid as possible, others I didn’t weigh down. With some cheeses I covered the outside with salt instead of doing a brine. The length of time I left the cheeses to cure varied and I wasn’t very diligent at recording the lengths of time that the cheeses sat curing.

I had a whole variety of results. The cheeses that I weighed down became very dry, I even had one that turned into a perfect parmasan. The cheeses that I took out less water from were tastier and much moister. Some accidents occured, giving some of the best results! One of these accidents consisted of me forgetting a cheese in my refrigerator for almost more than a month. When I found it, it had turned into a cream. My husband and I decided to try it as we didn’t want to throw it out. It was a delicious spreadable cheese.

We have tried to recreate that accident with some success!

My final conclusion on curing cheese has been to scrap the brining process and placing weights on the cheeses to remove as much liquid. Instead, as soon as I bring home my fresh cheeses (they are usually no more than 24 hours old when I buy them from my neighbor) I place them on plates. I  remove all the whey from the plates each day and turn the cheeses. This usually lasts about a week. Then, once the cheeses have developed a little crust I move them onto a rack and let them cure for 3 to 4 weeks, turning them every few days.

After about a week of curing the cheeses can be eaten. They will still be relatively soft, but the flavor will already be much richer than a fresh cheese. I like to leave my cheese cure for much longer as I like a harder cheese. But, sometimes I eat them quicker……

I now always have at leat two cheeses curing on my kitchen shelf. I usually eat the cured cheeses on toast or crackers. But, I also use them in baking!

 

English-Style Pork Pie

English-Style Pork PieI absolutely love pies. I have always liked making them, but I especially like eating them. Pies have never really been a cooking strong point for me, but they are one thing in the kitchen that I have never given-up on making. For me, the biggest challenge has always been the crust, either the crust is too flakey or is too tough, or it doesn’t roll out properly! Whatever the problem, pie crust has always been something that I have struggled with, until I learnt about hot water pastry. This was a pie crust life-saver for me. Firstly, it is easy to make and a beautiful pastry to work with (while still warm). Secondly, it is perfect for meat pies or any pie that is chocked full of delicious ingredients. It is a recipe that every pie lover should have in their recipe arsenal!

A little while ago I wanted to make an english style pork pie. I had been watching some english cooking show and they mentioned some deep dish meat pies, immediately I was taken by this idea and began researching different english style pork pies. Along with the deep dish meat pies I learnt about hot water pastry. I knew that I needed to try both of these and as soon as I came across some good recipes I tried it out.

The pie was really easy to make and turned out beautiful. I loved the idea of cooking the meat in the pie (not pre-cooking) and using boiled eggs in the center of the pie! The hot water pastry was a success. The pie crust turned out perfect, the pastry was easy to use, it did not break from the weight of the meat and held the deep pie shape perfectly once removed from the tin!

For the pie I used my own pork and made a gelatin broth by boiling one pigs foot for approximately 60 – 90 minutes with onion, garlic and carrots. I did not use any sausage (as indicated in the recipe) instead I just used pernil or pork leg, keeping any fat on the meat!

Today I am sharing the original recipe that I used, but I for the pie that I made I did not use the same meats as indicated in the recipe. I think you can use any kind of pork meat for this pie, just make sure to include a little bit of fat as this will give extra flavor to the pie.

This recipe is for one large pork pie, but you can also use this same recipe to make small individual pies. I haven’t yet made the individual pies, but plan to make some in the near future so that I can freeze them and just pull them out of the freezer when I want a quick meal! If making small pies, use quail eggs instead of chicken eggs:)!

English-Style Pork PieENGLISH-STYLE PORK PIE

For the filling

300g/10½oz good-quality sausages, such as Lincolnshire, skins removed
300g/10½oz pork mince
150g/5½oz cooked ham hock, cut into roughly 1.5cm/½in pieces
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
salt and white pepper
1 chicken stock cube (optional)
150ml/5fl oz boiling water (optional)
2 leaves gelatine (optional)

For the hot water crust pastry

450g/1lb plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g/3½oz strong white flour
75g/2½oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
½ tsp salt
100g/3½oz lard, plus extra for greasing
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Grease a 1kg/2lb 4oz loaf tin (measuring about 10x20cm/4x8in across the base) with lard, then cut one long strip of baking parchment, the width of the tin, and place it in the tin so that there’s an overhang of parchment at each end, which will help you remove the pie later.

  2. First make the filling. Put all the ingredients, except the hard-boiled eggs, into a large bowl and season lightly with salt and white pepper. Mix together thoroughly using your hands. Cook a little nugget of the mixture in a frying pan and taste it to check the seasoning. Add more seasoning, as necessary, to the remaining filling. Put the mixture in the fridge while you make the pastry.

  3. To make the pastry, combine the flours in a bowl, add the butter and rub in lightly with your fingertips. Heat 200ml/7fl oz water, the salt and lard in a saucepan until just boiling. Pour the mixture onto the flour and mix together with a spoon. Once cool enough to handle, tip onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth dough.

  4. Working as quickly as you can (the pastry will become more crumbly as it cools), roll out two-thirds of the pastry and use it to line the prepared tin, leaving any excess hanging over the edges.

  5. Press half of the meat filling into the pastry-lined tin. Take a thin slice off the top and bottom of each boiled egg (this helps them sit next to each other and makes slicing the pie easier), then place the eggs lengthways down the middle of the pie. Add the remaining meat filling and pat it down.

  6. Brush the overhanging pastry edge with egg yolk. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid and place over the pie. Pinch the pastry edges together to seal and trim the edges neatly. Make three steam holes in the top of the pie and brush with more egg yolk.

  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

  8. When the pie is cooked, set aside to cool for 10 minutes. If making the jelly, dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water. Soak the gelatine in a little cold water until soft then squeeze out excess water and whisk into the warm chicken stock.

  9. Pour the gelatine mixture into the hole in the top of the pie until the hollow cavity within the pie is filled. Allow the pies to set in the fridge overnight.

 

Recipe taken from:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/raised_pork_and_egg_pie_32033
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/small_pork_pies_with_11074

Rural Brazil – Summer Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant lasagnaWe know it is summer when we can finally make our yummy eggplant lasagna. Because I live at a high altitude the weather is much colder than most of Brazil, nights are cold all year around and we actually have some seasons or at least there is a distinct difference between our winter and summer. All of this means that we cannot grow specific vegetables throughout the whole year. Mainly it is the fruits that we cannot grow such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and eggplant.

We begin seeding our summer fruits in august, get the transplants in the ground by mid October and begin harvesting cucumber and zucchini by late November or early December. Tomatoes we can harvest by the end of December and pepper and eggplant only in January. By April it already begins to get too cold to continue planting. We are able to harvest into mid May, but by June all of  our summer fruits are finished.

So, a lot of the year we eat the basic vegetables such as collards, beets, carrots, escarole and spinach. But, when summer starts we go crazy in the kitchen with all of our summer dishes. We make a lot of antipastos, turn a lot of our tomatoes into sauce that usually lasts us the whole year and we make one of our all time favorite dishes: eggplant lasagna.

We love eggplant and when we have it we eat as much as possible. Our eggplant lasagna usually makes it into our menu on a weekly basis. It is so simple and we actually make this without pasta, so it is gluten-free!

We know that summer has really started when we can make our eggplant lasagna. So, yesterday was the first day I made eggplant lasagna and although it is unseasonable cold we know that summer is here!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. If you want to add pasta, you most definitely can!
Eggplant lasagna

Ingredients

2 large eggplants or 4 small
2 large jars/cans of tomato sauce
1 recipe of white sauce or bechamel
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Parmesan cheese or mozzarella

Slice the eggplant as thinly as possible, length wise. Place in a bowl and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Let rest for approximately 10-15 minutes.

Make one recipe of white sauce or bechamel. I do not use measurements, so if you do not have your own recipe you can follow this one HERE!

Preheat oven to 250C/480F.

To assemble the lasagna begin by spreading a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pan. Place a full layer of eggplant on top of the tomato sauce, cover with the white sauce and next add the tomato sauce. Continue in this manner until you have finished all ingredients or reached the top of your pan. Top with cheese.

Cover with aluminium foil and cook in the oven for 45-60 minutes. When almost baked through, uncover and allow the top to brown.

Back on Facebook

facebookA little more than a year ago I decided to leave Facebook, for many reasons I will not list here, and as I left Facebook, so did A Taste of Brazil.

Over the past weeks I have been in doubt of whether I should create a page again for A Taste of Brazil. I was torn between many different reasons for having a Facebook page and for not having one. But, in the end I decided to try to give it a go at having a Facebook page again for A Taste of Brazil.

Since I, personally, am not on Facebook, I will do what I can to keep A Taste of Brazil’s Facebook page up to date.

Please help me get started (again) with my Facebook page for A Taste of Brazil and go over to Facebook and like my page or click the LIKE button on the left-hand side menu and start following A Taste of Brazil there!

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