Archive | February, 2012

Mocoto (Brazilian Oxtail Soup with White Beans)

23 Feb

B’s last recipe, the black beans, was the first recipe we ever swapped. It is amazing, and was also my first attempt at cooking black beans, which I had been hearing about for years, but never seen in Australia or Indonesia. Trinidad has supplies of them, so I had a can sitting in the cupboard waiting to be cooked when I asked if anyone had a favourite recipe I could use. The morning after I cooked her beans, I had been to the gym, so was a bit peckish, and remembered there was some left-over in the fridge. I had one hell of a spring in my step getting back to the car to get home and eat them. Some people might call it a sprint. And they are just as good the next day.

It is carnival time here in Trinidad, so it is all a bit crazy, and availability of ingredients is sketchy. Something you can pretty much always get here is oxtail, and given it is such a popular ‘local’ ingredient I thought that there may also be a good Brazilian recipe. There is… Mocoto, said with an emphasis on the ‘to’. A full flavoured soupy stewy goodness.This recipe calls for half of the beans and broth to be pureéd together and the other half to be left as is. This gives a thick and creamy base to the soup.

You’ll need…

Oxtail, onion, tomato, spring onion (scallion), bay leaf, garlic, celery (the original recipe calls for bell pepper (capsicum) so once again use that if you like it), coriander (cilantro), white beans like Cannellini, bacon, butter, oil, salt and pepper.

I started by melting a little oil and butter in a deep heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. I seasoned the oxtail with salt and pepper, and then browned in the pan, in batches.

It is important when browning pieces of meat not to crowd them, or they can end up stewing rather than browning. While the meat was browning, I chopped up the onion, celery, garlic and bacon.

With all of the browned oxtail removed from the pan, I put in the chopped onion, garlic, celery, bacon and also the bay leaves. I let them cook through and brown a little, by stirring them over a medium heat for a few minutes. In the meantime I chopped the tomatoes.

When the bacon was looking a little browned and the onion looked translucent I returned the oxtail to the saucepan, and added in the tomatoes. After mixing through, I then topped up the saucepan with water, to around an inch above the level of the meat.

I brought the contents to a boil on high heat, and then reduced the heat to low, the point at which the soup simmered gently. I left it to simmer for three hours, stirring from time to time. After three hours I checked to see if the meat was falling off the bones. I probably could have cooked it a bit longer, but it was still tasty. I think 3-5 hours would be a good time frame to allow for the cooking of the oxtail, if you have that time available.

I scooped out the oxtail and bones and put them aside to cool a little.

I then rinsed the two cans of beans, and put half in to a food processor. I also ladled in half of the cooking broth from the saucepan, and blended them together until smooth.

It made a creamy white mixture, that I added back in to the pot with the remaining broth. I then tipped the unblended beans into this mix.

I pulled the meat from the oxtail pieces, shredding it slightly as I went, and put it back in to the soup.

And I mixed it well, and warming it over medium-low heat. I then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and it was ready to serve.

I chopped up some spring onion (scallion) and pulled the leaves off some coriander (cilantro) as a garnish for the soup. Be generous with the coriander leaves, it works well. I left a bottle of tabasco sauce on the table and I used it to season my soup also. Jason felt it didn’t need anything else.

So B, now you have me hooked on this cuisine. I am curious to know if you are planning to show me more Brazilian flavours. Tag!


adaption of this recipe
serves four

900g (2 pounds) oxtail
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, or two small onions, diced
3 large tomatoes or or equivalent in smaller tomatoes, cubed
4 stalks of celery, or a red and green bell pepper (capsicum), diced
50g (2 oz) smoked bacon, chopped
4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
½ bunch of coriander (cilantro)
Spring onion (scallion)


Season the oxtails with salt and pepper. Warm the oil and butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, and brown the oxtails in batches.

With all of the browned oxtail removed from the pan, add the bacon, celery (or peppers), onion, garlic and bay leaves. Stirring every minute or so, let the ingredients cook and brown a little. Add back in the browned oxtail and then the cubed tomatoes, and cover with water to around an inch above the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer over low heat for at least 3 hours. Ideally the meat should be falling off the bone, so allow 3-5 hours if you can. When the meat is ready, remove from the broth to a bowl and allow to cool a little.

Add half of the beans and half of the broth to a blender and purée. Put the blended and the remaining whole beans back in to the saucepan with the rest of the broth.
Pull the meat from the bones of the oxtail and shred a little as you go. Add this back in to the soup, and mix well and warm over a medium-low heat.

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If your soup is too thick at this stage, add a little more hot water to get the consistency you like to eat. Keep the soup warm over a low heat making sure to stir from time to time so it doesn’t stick to the saucepan.

To serve, garnish generously with coriander (cilantro) and chopped spring onion (scallion). Serve with Tabasco as an optional seasoning on the table.

Black Beans and Rice with Oven Fried Chicken

18 Feb

Alice’s last post looked utterly delicious! Black beans have so much flavor and make for such a satisfying meal.

I grew up eating beans every day. They are high in protein and in fiber. In other words, they are good for you. They are also very inexpensive, especially if you buy the dried beans and cook them yourself.

The Brazilian beans I ate every day were a little different from these, but I took inspiration from them. Our beans were brown and not quite as flavorful as black beans. We didn’t typically add vegetables to them either. It was just onions, garlic and maybe the odd bit of meat for flavoring. The black beans were eaten more frequently in Curitiba and areas near the southern coast of Brazil, where we vacationed each year. They were also used for feijoada, the national Brazilian dish of beans and many different sorts of meats cooked together into an amazingly rich goodness. This combination of things meant that to me, black beans were special occasion food. I enjoy eating them all the time now, without having to wait for a special occasion.

To make these every day special occasion beans, first chop up some onion and tomatoes, press garlic through a garlic press and mix it with some salt until it becomes a paste. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, drizzle enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Toss in the onions, let them saute until they are soft, add the garlic paste and let cook for about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook them until softened and starting to release a little of their juice, about five minutes.

Then toss in a can of rinsed, drained black beans,

stir well to combine, season with salt, fresh ground pepper and some cumin.

Use the empty bean can to fill with hot water and add that to the pan.

Let this cook until thickened, add a dash of hot sauce and serve over rice.

The rice starts off in much the same manner. Saute the onion in a heavy bottomed pan and once it has begun to soften, about five minutes, add the garlic paste and let that cook for a minute or two.

In the meantime, rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then drain it. When the onions and garlic are softened and have sufficiently scented your kitchen (remember to BREATHE in this heavenly aroma)

add the rice and stir it around in the pan. Let it combine with the onion mixture and even fry a bit.

After about five minutes of frying the rice,

pour in the boiling water.

You should use nearly double the amount of water as rice. Stir it well, making sure to scrape the rice off the edges of the pan. Taste the water to check the flavor, adjusting the salt to taste.

Let it boil for a minute or two, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. It should barely simmer for about 20 minutes. DO NOT stir the rice while it is cooking. You will end up with a glob of mush and will incur the wrath of every Brazilian grandmother there ever was! Check the pan after about 15 minutes, looking for little holes in the top of the cooked rice and take a taste to see if the rice is soft. You should poke a spoon down to the bottom of the pan to make sure the water has not all boiled off, as you don’t want to burn your rice. If the bottom of the pan is dry and the rice is still not done, add a little more boiling water and keep covered.

You will end up with a slightly crispier crust of rice at the bottom of the pan when you are done. This is a favorite treat among most rice eaters, at least in my family.

Top the rice with the beans and you’ve got yourself a delicious, satisfying, inexpensive meal.

I decided to add my Mom’s oven “fried” chicken to this meal. It is baked in the oven, but tastes crispy, as if it had been fried. You couldn’t ask for an easier way to prepare chicken.

Sprinkle the chicken with some salt and pepper.

Place a cup of flour in a zip lock bag or any clean plastic bag. Add the seasoning of your choice to the flour. Be generous with your spice.

I used a Cajun spice this time, along with some garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Drop the chicken in the bag of seasoned flour and shake until it’s completely coated.

Place it, skin side down, in a baking pan that has been drizzled with a little bit of oil and a couple of dabs of butter. Repeat for all the pieces. Pop the pan into a 375F degree oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes. Pull the pan out, flip over all the pieces and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes. If it’s not brown and crispy enough for you yet, let it go another 10 minutes, then check again.

When the chicken is brown and crispy, pull out of the oven and serve. With the beans and rice, of course.

And I’m happy to report that the chicken is just as good eaten cold the next day. Yum!


1 can of black beans
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A few shakes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Crush garlic, then add to a small bowl with a teaspoon of salt and mix together with a spoon until it becomes a paste. Set aside.

Open can of beans (or cook them from dry), rinse beans and set aside.

In medium saucepan or large skillet, heat enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Saute the onion until soft, about five minutes. Then add the garlic paste and the green pepper, if using. Cook a minute or two longer, then add the tomato. Once the tomatoes have softened and begun to release their juice, about five minutes, pour the drained beans into the pan and mix in the cumin. Then fill the empty bean can with hot water and pour into the mixture. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the water has thickened a bit. Crush some of the beans with the back of your spoon to thicken as well. Add a few shakes of hot sauce and serve.

This is the vegetarian version. You can include bacon to the saute process or add a ham hock for a meaty smoky flavor. Chorizo or other smoked sausages add extra richness to the dish.


1 cup of long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of salt
1-2 tablespoons of oil
scant 2 cups of boiling water

Rinse rice until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.

Chop onion.

Crush garlic, then mix in a small bowl with a teaspoon of salt until it becomes a paste. Set aside.

In a medium heavy bottomed pan, heat enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and saute until soft, about five minutes, then add the garlic paste and cook a minute or two longer. The rice can be added and fried in the onion and garlic mixture for about five minutes. Pour boiling water in the pan, enough to cover the rice by about 1/2 an inch (2 cm), or a little less than two cups.

Stir it well, making sure to scrape the rice off the edges of the pan. Taste the water for proper seasoning to your taste.

Let it boil for a minute or two, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Let it simmer on low without stirring for about 20 minutes. Check the pan after about 15 minutes, look for little holes in the top of the cooked rice and take a little taste to see if it’s soft. Also, poke a spoon down to the bottom of the pan to make sure the water has not all boiled off, as you don’t want to burn your rice. If the bottom of the pan is dry and the rice is still not done, add more boiling water to the pan and keep covered. Once the rice is softened, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes before serving.

Bernice’s* Oven “Fried” Chicken

4 chicken breasts, skin on and bone in, or use whatever pieces you prefer
1 cup white flour
2 tablespoons powdered seasoning. I used Cajun, but you can use Jerk seasoning, a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, Mrs Dash or any other premixed seasoning
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Salt and pepper the chicken. Place the flour and seasonings of your choice in a plastic bag, mix well. Drop the chicken in the bag of seasoned flour and shake to coat.

Place all the chicken pieces skin side down in a baking pan drizzled with some oil and some dabs of butter. Bake for 20 minutes, pull out and turn the chicken pieces over and return to oven for another 20 minutes, or until it is as crispy as you prefer. Eat.

*Bernice is my Mom

Hey Alice. Are you enjoying this tour of South America? What do you have for us now?

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

11 Feb

I’m always on the look out for great salads. When I find a salad that is delicious and can sit in the fridge ready for lunches… I’m sold. B’s wee adventure to Cuba had me looking for a salad with Cuban influence, they were few and far between. So I sashayed across to the Andes, still within Latino territory, where quinoa, the grain-like seed, originates. If you haven’t used quinoa, welcome. Welcome to a seed that is packed with protein and nutrients. It’s filling too.

This salad has so much flavour it knocks my socks off every time I make it. So I guess it is lucky I live in warm weather huh?

You’ll need…

Quinoa, spring onion (scallion), coriander (cilantro), limes for juicing, pickled jalapeño, sweet corn, black beans, celery, garlic, ground cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) comes in a range of colours. Feel free to use whatever colour you like for this recipe, or even a combination like I did here.

First I cooked the quinoa by boiling four cups of water on high heat and adding a tablespoon of salt. After turning the heat down to medium, I added the quinoa and let it simmer for about 12 minutes.

The quinoa is cooked through when the small white tail becomes visible. I then strained it well in a small holed strainer and set it aside to cool a little.

I prepared the rest of the salad ingredients and put them in a big bowl as I went. I chopped the spring onion (scallion), the coriander (cilantro),

the pickled jalapeños, and the celery. The celery is my addition, the original recipe called for red pepper, so by all means use it if you like it.

I drained and rinsed the canned black beans, tossed them in and the corn also. I added the quinoa and mixed well.

Then to make the dressing… I juiced the limes, and added the juice to the oil,

then threw in the salt, pepper, ground cumin and garlic and whisked with a fork. Here limes are bountiful, but back home in Australia I would be substituting the limes for lemons, for the sake of the mortgage.

I poured the dressing over the salad then tossed it all through.

The salad can sit in the fridge until you serve it. I find it also keeps for a couple of days in the fridge. It may last longer, but I haven’t ever managed to keep it that long.

It is a meal on its own, you can also pair it with a piece of roasted chicken, fish, whatever you fancy.

Latin America has me captivated.

Where will B go next? Tag!

adaption of recipe from tasty kitchen


1 1/2 cups quinoa, any combination of colours
1 tablespoon of salt for the quinoa cooking water
1/2 cup chopped spring onions (scallions)
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), for me it took a medium sized bunch
20 slices of pickled jalapeño, chopped
1 cup of chopped celery, or red pepper (capsicum)
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups of sweet corn

75ml (5tbsp) fresh lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
a good grind of black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic minced

Cook the quinoa in simmering salted water until you see the small white tail. That should take around 12 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool a little. Put all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk with a fork before pouring over and stirring through the salad.

The salad is delicious there and then, but you can make it in advance and refrigerate it. It keeps well in the fridge for at least a couple of days.

Arroz con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)

4 Feb

That last post of Alice’s was a very heartwarming one for me. My Dad, who just passed away last summer, was a wonderful cook. He could make the simplest dishes taste so amazingly good. The chicken with okra was one dish that he made very well and he taught me how to make it about a year ago. It felt like things were coming full circle to have my dear friend Alice cook a dish for this blog that was my dearly beloved Dad’s. He would have enjoyed that so much!

Thank you Amy for the beautiful photos!

I’m continuing the theme of chicken and rice, which is a staple in Latin America, with my arroz con pollo. Translated from Spanish, it quite simply means “rice with chicken”, but it is ever so much more than simple. The flavors are full, the dish is comforting and it’s a one dish meal. What could be better for a cold winter’s night?

Something I learned from my Dad in the preparation of his delicious Brazilian dishes is to always marinate your meat. Even it if is just for a short time. I marinated my chicken for about 30 minutes, while I was preparing the rest of the ingredients.

It’s a simple marinade of vinegar, garlic, onions, salt, pepper and oregano.

In most Latin cooking, the dish begins with “sofrito“. It is a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut into small pieces and slowly sauteed in cooking oil for 15-30 minutes. In Cuban cuisine, sofrito is made up of onions, garlic and green bell pepper.

Sauteing these ingredients adds a rich flavor base to the dish. And the colors are so beautiful together! They look good enough to eat.

First, I heated a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then I placed the chicken in a single layer in the hot pan. Brown your chicken in more than one batch if you have too much to fit in the pan all at once.

Turn each piece so it browns on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and keep warm in a bowl.

Then make the sofrito, adding the onions first for about five minutes until they begin softening. I then added chorizo to add a little more flavor.

After that, the garlic and green pepper can go in. Add your paprika, oregano, bay leaf and cumin, then taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, feel free to add a few more shakes of cumin, paprika, black pepper or salt. Add just a little at a time, as it is easier to add more seasonings than it is to remove them. Let the green pepper soften a bit before you toss in the tomatoes. Let that all cook together for about 15 minutes, while the sofrito cooks and the tomatoes soften and release some juice, stirring frequently.

Add the uncooked rice along with the chicken broth and beer, mix well.

When your liquid comes to a light boil, add your chicken to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

Let it cook, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until the rice is done. Give it a few minutes to rest, then serve.

Arroz Con Pollo (Cuban Chicken with Rice)
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
6 chicken drumsticks or pieces of your choice
3 oz Spanish chorizo (cured sausage) cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
2 bay leaves
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice

Marinate chicken:
Mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano. Add a handful of chopped onions and chicken, toss to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cook chicken and rice:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, add chicken in a single layer in the pan. Brown the chicken in two batches if you cannot fit them all in at the same time. Turn each piece so they brown on all sides, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and keep warm in a bowl.

Cook onions in the pan for about five minutes, until softened. Feel free to add a little oil to the pan if there isn’t enough after browning the chicken. Add the chorizo to the onions and allow to cook for a few minutes.

After that, the garlic and green pepper can go in. Add the paprika, oregano, bay leaf and cumin, then taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, feel free to add a few more shakes of cumin, paprika, black pepper or salt. Add just a little at a time, as it is easier to add more seasonings if needed, than it is to remove them. Let the green pepper soften a bit before you toss in the tomatoes. Let that all cook together for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, while the tomatoes soften and release some juice.

Stir in the rice, chicken broth and beer, return the chicken to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan with a tight fitting lid and let it cook until the rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes before serving.

Ok, Alice. Where are you taking us now?

Frango com Quiabo (Brazilian chicken with okra)

1 Feb

Well, we made it to Brazil. This is B’s home turf of cooking, a world of South American food with a European sensibility. Learning recipes from B is a joy. She is such a natural cook, I know her dad, who by all accounts was a pretty incredible man and cook, had a whole lot to do with that.

I had a look around at traditional Brazilian recipes, and was intrigued by the sound of this chicken which is cooked with vinegar. Okra is a vegetable I have always been afraid of cooking it, given that the texture is dubious to say the least. B allayed my fears by assuring me that with her father Dick’s method, the okra is just lightly steamed, and never stirred, so it does not get slimy at all. She was of course spot on. And the okra that lands in the sauce thickens it perfectly.

You’ll need some chicken thighs still on the bone, garlic, an onion, some small okra, half a green chilli, salt, pepper, olive oil, tomato paste and vinegar… I used super basic white vinegar, it was perfect. Thighs on the bone will give you the best flavour.

The thighs marinate before cooking, for at least an hour, I left them marinating overnight. I’m an overachiever like that.

First step is to make a garlic paste with salt, if you have a mortar and pestle it would be ideal to use that, instead I minced the garlic with a microplane and then mashed the salt in well. This paste is often used as a base of a flavour in Brazilian food.

Then add a couple of grinds of pepper, vinegar and some oil. Mix well.

Chop up the onion, then put the chicken thighs in a container that will sit well in the fridge, and rub well with the paste and the onions. Cover with plastic and leave to marinate refrigerated.

When the chicken has marinated, add enough oil to cover the base of a large heavy bottomed pan, and brown the thighs. I did this in two batches to give the thighs space in the pan. I found I had to keep the heat on medium so as not to over cook the onion while the chicken browned lightly.

When browned, put the chicken in the saucepan together with a generous grind of pepper, and the tomato paste. Then top up with water until just barely covered.

Bring the saucepan to a boil, and allow to simmer turning occasionally until the liquid is reduced by at least half, and the chicken is very tender. Taste for seasoning, and even a little for vinegar if you feel it needs some more acidity. The chilli will add some piquancy.

Chop up the chilli finely, and the okra thinly.

Who would know okra’s ugly exterior would have such a pretty doily like interior when you chop it?

Spread the chilli and okra on the top of the chicken in the saucepan, put the lid on and let the okra steam for about 10 minutes. Don’t stir the okra, this is key.

Then it is ready to serve with some rice.

We loved it. Healthy, flavoursome, and has a delicious rich sauce. Jason commented that it reminded him of a dish he adores, chicken cacciatore. What surprises me about the Brazilian food I have made or eaten so far is the finesse in the flavours, quite different to the other flavours I know of South and Central America.

Thanks for this recipe B, and all of the coaching as I cooked it.

Oh yeah, tag! You’re ‘it’ now.


serves four

6-8 chicken thighs on the bone
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
three tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
half a green chilli, finely chopped
10 small okra

Mash the garlic with the salt to make a paste. Add a grind or two of pepper, the vinegar and a tablespoon of oil. Mix well and then rub on to the chicken. Mix onion through chicken also and allow to marinate for at least an hour.

When chicken has marinated, add two tablespoons of oil to a heavy bottomed pan and brown the thighs and onion, in batches if need be, to allow space around the thighs.

When browned, put all of the chicken back in to the saucepan and grind a generous amount of pepper over them, then add the tomato paste and enough water to just cover the chicken. Cook until very tender and the liquid has reduced somewhat.

Thinly slice okra and scatter over the chicken along with the chilli pepper. Cover and allow the okra to steam for ten minutes or until cooked. Do not stir.

Serve with rice.

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