My first encounter with feijoada, regarded as the national dish of Brazil, came when I was working at Bocanova back in 2004. I have fond memories of curiously watching this dish being prepared, curing the pieces of pork, the long, slow simmering of the beans, right down to the toasting of the farofa to sprinkle on top.
This curing process, at first a necessary way to preserve pieces of meat until enough was accumulated, has now become a tradition that is considered imperative for an authentic tasting feijoada. The Brazilians I know take this very seriously, as an important piece of their cultural heritage, much like other nations with their national dishes, and serve it with love and pride. Cooking and serving a feijoada becomes an occasion, an excuse to get a rabble of friends and family together as this is a simple peasant dish meant to be made in ample quantities and shared with loved ones. Food being an important way to express love, in my opinion (which is probably why I became a chef in the first place), one can use it to celebrate the event of getting together, and also motive to do so.
Lovingly prepared and lovingly shared, just how food should be.
I haven’t actually ever been to Brazil myself but I was taught this by Brazilians, who all shared their own feijoada experiences with great enthusiasm. Try it for yourself, it’s great fun to make and even more fun to share with a group of friends and a big jug of caipirinhas!
Add as many different meats as you like: pig’s ears, tongue, tail, ribs, trotters, belly, shoulder, gammon, hock, sausages, chorizo, morcilla, black pudding, pancetta, salt beef or pork and any other cured meats, whatever you can get hold of or have to hand. I recommend Source in St. Nicholas market and Castellano’s (at Bristol Farmers’ market every Wednesday) for raw and cured meats to use in your feijoada. If you don’t wish to ‘go the whole hog’ just use pork belly and/or shoulder and sausages to simplify the preparation process.
To make enough for about 10 people;
NB. Allow at least 5 hours cooking time, a day to soak the beans and up to a week to cure the meats. It is best cooked the day before serving to let the flavours infuse into the sauce.
1 of each trotter, ear, tail, tongue
250g pork belly, shoulder and/or gammon
125g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
125g pork sausages
125g salt beef
100g morcilla or black pudding
500g dried black turtle beans
1 bay leaf
a handful of parsley stalks
3 sprigs thyme
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
2 fat cloves of garlic
6 chopped tomatoes
oil for frying
salt and pepper
The traditional accompaniments are farofa; toasted cassava flour, plain boiled rice, steamed kale, orange slices and chilli sauce.
3-7 days before serving –
Cure the ears, trotters, tail, ribs, tongue, belly, shoulder ie. any raw meat by sprinkling liberally with sea salt or immersing in brine (if curing your own salt beef or gammon cure in a brining solution for 7-10 days depending on the size).
2 days before serving –
Rinse the cured meats well and soak in fresh water overnight.
Rinse the beans well and soak in fresh water overnight.
The day before serving –
Place the beans in a large pan with bay, thyme and parsley stalks tied in a bundle. Top up with cold water and/or chicken or pork stock.
Bring to the boil, cook for 10 minutes removing any scum that rises to the surface with a ladle. Reduce the heat, add the raw cured meats and simmer gently for 1-2 hours.
Cut the pork belly, shoulder, chorizo and sausages into chunks, brown in a frying pan in batches and add to the pot.
In another pan, sweat off diced onion, garlic and celery until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook down into a thick sauce.
After about another hour or so remove the trotter, ear, tail and tongue (and gammon/salt beef if using) and pick the meat off/chop into manageable chunks and return to the pot. If you’re using any ready cured or cooked meats add these now.
Ladle a few cups of beans, which by now should be tender, into the tomato sauce. Mash up together and transfer the lot back to the main pot and stir in.
Remove the herb bundle and season to taste.