Tag Archives: Brazil

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.

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.

Camarão na Moranga (Squash with Shrimp)

28 Jan

Alice’s dish reminded me of this quote from the movie Forrest Gump:

Bubba: Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

Funny thing is, he didn’t list either one of our shrimp dishes…

Growing up in Brazil, our special occasion dishes were not the same dishes that most of my American friends had. And we didn’t go to a grocery store to get our produce. We, and by we I mean our gardener Zé Branco, grew it. Meet Zé…

This shrimp dish was one of our special dishes, introduced to us by our Brazilian family. They served it in a large Cinderella pumpkin and it was as beautiful as it was delicious. It became a dish that I made for holidays, but I had to make it in individual acorn squash, because I couldn’t get the beautiful giant pumpkins in Minnesota at Christmas time. In fact, I just had it with my dear friends a month ago.

This is a dish that reminds me of family and love and celebration.

The method is quite simple, bake your squash, cut the top off and scoop out the seeds.

You can do those previous two things in any order. Usually, I cut the top off the squash, scoop out the seeds, put the lid back on and bake it until it is soft. This time, I reversed the order because the squash seemed very hard, I had already injured myself once that day… and wasn’t interested it doing it again. So I baked the squash for about an hour, then cut off the tops, scooped out the seeds and filled them with the shrimp sauce. Oops, getting ahead of myself.

While the squash was in the oven, I set to making the sauce.

I chopped up an onion, three cloves of garlic, half of a bunch of parsley, half of a bunch of green onions and four tomatoes.

I sautéed the onions in a large pot, over medium heat, with a tablespoon of oil. They just needed to soften a bit, about five to seven minutes, while being stirred once in a while. Then I added the garlic and let that soften a bit as well. By the way, the smell of sautéing onion and garlic together is quite possibly one of my favorite scents in the world. So inhale deeply at this point. You’re welcome!

Then I tossed in the chopped parsley and green onion, mixed them around a bit,

then added the tomatoes. The whole mixture cooked for a while, until everything started softening up and breaking down.

Then I added about four to five tablespoons of ketchup, two tablespoons of tomato paste, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a couple of dashes of a hot sauce, like Tabasco, and some salt and pepper to taste. Stirred that all together, and topped it off with four cups of chicken broth. I tasted it for seasoning and then let it simmer for about 45 minutes.

When the squash was soft, I cut the tops off, scooped out the seeds,

then smeared the insides with onion and chive flavored cream cheese.

You can certainly use plain cream cheese, or you can use Requeijão Cremoso if you have access to it. It’s a creamy cheese that is readily available in Brazil and sometimes available in Latin markets in the US.

The shrimp can be added to the sauce for a minute or two before you scoop it all into the squash.

Don’t let it cook for too long, or the shrimp will become quite rubbery. Raw shrimp works best for this dish, but I have also tossed in some of the teeny tiny precooked shrimp in a pinch.

I filled the squash with the sauce, put the lids back on

and put them back in the oven for another 20 minutes, while I made the rice.

We always served this over rice, but it really can be served as a one dish, errr gourd, meal.

Brazilians are very fond of their rice and will usually not have a meal without including it. And once you taste some well made Brazilian rice… you will realize why. It’s garlic-y, soft and absolutely delicious on its own or as a complement to a nice sauce.

I will post the recipe and method for Brazilian rice another time. You’ll just have to check back!

Camarão na Moranga (Squash with Shrimp)


1-2 tablespoons of oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped

1/2 bunch of green onions, chopped (use the greens and whites)

4 large tomatoes, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of ketchup

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

2-3 dashes of hot sauce (like Tabasco)

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of chicken broth (I used 1 carton of store bought chicken broth)

1 lb of shrimp, peeled or with shells according to your preference

1 tub (12 oz/ 350g) of onion and chive flavored cream cheese (can also use plain)

1 large Cinderella pumpkin or individual acorn squashes


Place squash in a 350F oven, let bake for at least one hour or until it is soft when pressed. Alternately, if you feel brave, cut top off squash, scoop out the seeds, replace the lid and place in oven to bake for one hour or until soft when pressed.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium/high heat, add chopped onions and sauté five to seven minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add chopped garlic, cook two to three minutes longer. Add chopped parsley and green onions, mix around, then add chopped tomatoes. Stir intermittently, keep cooking until the tomatoes start to break down.

Add ketchup, Worcestershire and tomato sauces, then some salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the chicken broth and lower the heat to medium. The sauce should be at a high simmer, lightly bubbling. Let sauce cook for 45 minutes or longer, if needed.

When squash is soft, pull it out of the oven, cut off top and scoop out seeds if you haven’t done so yet. Be careful, it will be very hot! Spread cream cheese around the inside of the cooked squash, including the lid.

Add shrimp to the sauce and let it cook for just a few minutes. Stir in any remaining cream cheese.*

Fill squash with sauce. You will most likely have some extra sauce remaining.

Place squash back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Remove squash from oven, if using large squash, place on a serving platter in the middle of the table and serve by scooping sauce along with some of the squash and cream cheese over rice.

If using individual squashes, place one on each plate, serve with rice and allow each person to scoop their own.

*If you prefer a creamy sauce, feel free to add some cream cheese, sour cream or a cup of creme de leite to the sauce before you scoop it into the squash.

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