Fried Manioc Balls

Fried Manioc BallsBecause I have a lot of manioc or cassava in the house I am trying to be as creative as possible in my cooking. Manioc is not something that I am used to cooking and, honestly, there are very few recipes I know that use it. So, at the moment, I am constantly pulling out my recipe books to look for new and different recipes that use manioc. A few weeks ago I made fluffy manioc rolls which turned out beautiful and will definitely become a staple recipe. Then sometime later I tried to make these fried manioc balls, which turned out amazing! So far I am managing to successfully use manioc in my cooking:)!

Frying foods is big in Brazil and although I love fried foods I actually rarely fry anything at home. I prefer not to fry foods in the house as I detest the after smell of oil, so as a general rule, I stay away from any kind of frying. But, when I came across this recipe I figured that I had to give it a go. My husband loves fried rice balls and for the past weeks he had been asking me to make them. Instead, I gave this recipe a try! They are comparable to the fried rice balls, just a little bit heavier!

The recipe itself is super easy. The most work is actually boiling the manioc which takes about half an hour. You need to make sure it is REALLY well cooked as you are going to mash them up. The rest of the ingredients include, chopped onion, parsley, grated cheese, salt, pepper, egg and flour. Mix everything together, heat the oil, and fry away.

These are best eaten fresh, but you can save them for the next day, they will just lose their crunch.

Happy frying!

Fried Manioc BallsFRIED MANIOC BALLS

2 cups of cooked and mashed manioc
1 tbsp of finely chopped onion
2 tbsps of chopped parsley
3-4 tbsps of grated cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp of salt
Pepper to taste
6-10 heaping tablespoons of white flour
1 cup of vegetable oil

Boil the manioc for 30 to 45 minutes until well cooked. Remove the inner stalk and mash. Set aside to cool.

Mix the onion, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper. Add the mashed manioc and mix well. Add the eggs and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour and mix well. If you would like a firmer ball you can add more flour.

Heat the oil in a pan on the stove. Once the oil is hot, using two tablespoons, spoon the mixture into the oil and fry until brown. Turn over to fry the other side. Remove from the oil and let rest on a paper towel. Continue in this manner until all the batter has been fried.

Eat as a snack with a nice cold beer or as an accompaniment to dinner.

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!

 

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.

Easy Blender Cheese Breads (Pão de Queijo)

pão de queijoAnyone who has tried the Brazilian pão de queijo (cheese breads) loves them and knows that once you eat one you will probably eat another five…or all that are on the plate in front of you! Since the first time I tried pão de queijo I absolutely loved them and they have always been my favorite snack with a good cup of coffee.

Since learning to make pão de queijo at home I have made a lot and usually make a large recipe and freeze about 3/4 so that whenever I feel like eating one I can just pop a few in the oven and in 15 minutes I have piping hot homemade pão de queijo. Yummmmm!

When I started making pão de queijo at home I did pretty well with keeping my freezer supply fully stocked, but in the last half a year I have slacked and we haven’t had any pão de queijo at home in the freezer. So, the other day I was craving some homemade pão de queijo but I wanted to make some pretty quickly. I had heard a lot of people talking about making a pão de queijo batter in the blender and baking the pão de queijo in muffin tins. I was always pretty skeptical about this and really didn’t think that they would work or that the taste would be good. But, since I wanted quick pão de queijo I decided to give this recipe a go!

With few expectations, partly because I was using tapioca flour that was almost two years out of date (I didn’t have any newer flour in the house), I was completely surprised when my pão de queijo rose beautifully in the oven and tasted amazing. They actually tasted like the real deal. They were nice and gooey in the middle and they had a good cheese taste (although I did decide that next time I make these I would increase the amount of cheese).

pão de queijoThis recipe is wonderful because it is so easy and 100% fool proof. My previous pão de queijo recipe (you can find it HERE) is the ‘real deal’, but it is a little bit more challenging, has more room for errors and does take longer to make, but you can freeze the pão de queijo for later consumption which is one big bonus about the recipe. If you are completely new to making pão de queijo I would recommend trying these, it will be difficult to have a batch that goes wrong. This recipe is also great for if you are pressed for time and want to quickly whip-up some pão de queijo. It takes about 10 minutes to make the batter and 15-20 minutes cooking time. If you want to make pão de queijo for freezing stick to my other recipe, you will be unable to freeze these pão de queijos as the batter is completely liquid.

Happy baking and I hope you all try this recipe! Happy Eating:)!

Ingredients
makes 30

100 – 150g grated parmesan cheese (or meia cura)
1 egg
3/4 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup tapioca flour (or polvilho azedo)
A pinch of salt
Oil and white flour to grease the muffin tins

Preheat the oven to 180C or 355F. Using mini muffin tins (diameter of approx. 6cm), oil each tin well and lightly flour.

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and mix until well incorporated and you have a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins to about 3/4 full.

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. When baked, remove from the oven and take out of the muffin tins immediately. Serve warm!

pão de queijo

Bolinho de Arroz (Little Rice Balls)

Little Rice BallsYou know that I like the simple recipes and I always think that the simple recipes are the tastiest. Laboring in the kitchen to produce an extravagant meal is always wonderful and the rewards are big, but, for me, it always comes down to those small and simple morsels of goodness. Bolinho de arroz is one of those foods that I just absolutely love. And, to make them even better they are fried. Really, anything fried is delicious and irresistible. Translated to english bolinho de arroz means little rice balls and there isn’t much more to add to it because that is just what they are.

The wonderful thing with this recipe is that you never need to throw out rice again. I always struggle to think of what to do with the small amount of rice I usually end up with after a few meals of eating the large pot of rice that I make every few days. I usually end up giving the scraps to the dogs. So really the old rice never really goes to waste, but there are those times that I just want to do something more with the rice so that I can eat it and not my dogs (yes, a little selfish I know).

Little Rice BallsSince learning to make this recipe there is no more excuse for me to throw out the left over rice or feed it to the dogs (ok, they will still get the leftovers sometimes as I can’t eat fried rice balls all the time). It is easy to make and a great snack before dinner or to accompany dinner. Who could ask for more? Quick to put together, tasty, and you’re using leftovers. This is my perfect recipe!

Little Rice BallsIngredients

2 cups of cooked rice
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
Parsley and spring onions, finely chopped (Cheiro Verde)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup flour
Canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil

Put the rice, egg, milk, grated cheese, parsley, spring onions, and salt into a bowl. Mix together well using a spoon or your hands. Slowly add in flour, one spoon at a time. Keep adding the flour until the mixture becomes slightly firm and holds together when you roll a ball, approximately half a cup of flour. Roll the rice into small ovals. Pour enough oil into a pan to cover half of the rice balls. Heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the rice balls into the oil and cook until golden brown. Turn the balls over and cook the other side until golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on a paper napkin to drain the oil. Eat when still warm.

For a PDF of this recipe CLICK HERE!

Little Rice Balls