World Cup fever is at its highest point right now with everyone looking forward to the finals this weekend…….even I cannot escape it!!!! Since I have not yet figured out the game yet, I use this as an opportunity to learn more about the countries playing the matches. It’s been interesting reading all about the sights, culture and most importantly food about the various countries. My bro in law, N, has been talking about this business trip he is going to take to Rio and that got me thinking about Brazilian food itself. Many travel websites have mentioned that South America is not ideal for vegetarians with just a few options. A little research resulted in plenty of vegetarian variations on Feijoada, a few salsas and some rices ……but I wanted more. I finally found a chicken and shrimp stew that I could make vegetarian. Its called Xin Xim de Galinha.
I found this recipe in Sara Moulton’s website under Weeknight Meals with guest Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, a Brazilian Chef and cookbook author. What attracted me to it was the fact that I had most of the indgredients on hand. I didnt have the time or quite frankly the energy to go shopping !!!! Anyway, I have found that while substituting for chicken or seafood, potato, cauliflower or paneer work the best. Well, this time neither did I have cauliflower nor paneer, so I used potatoes and the ubiquitous black beans so prevalent in Latin cuisine. The base of the stew is made with cashews, peanuts and coconut milk. It’s a recipe from the state of Bahia. Bahian cuisine is most famous of Brazilian regional cuisines. This stew honors the Goddess Oxum that the African slaves brought with them during the Portuguese colonization of Brazil, hence the use of peanuts!!! It is basically browned pieces of chicken and seafood or in case lightly browned potatoes in a thick creamy nut based sauce. It’s combined with the popular and brilliantly yellow oil….dende oil or palm oil. Palm oil is mostly in Tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. I did not buy palm oil instead used turmeric to get a similar yellow hue. Some versions do have jalapenos in them.
This stew is colorful, spicy and deliciously tasty !!! Somehow, the simple potato becomes almost exotic and unique in this sauce. The stew is simple to make but complex and rich in flavor. The flavors are rounded and soft but then you get the kick from paprika and lime juice. I served it with rice, a simple hot sauce for more heat if you prefer and a simple tomato & onion salad.
BRAZILIAN POTATO AND BEAN STEW
(Vegetarian Xin Xim de Galinha)
2-3 medium Red Potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cubed (2 ½ -3 cups)
1 – 1 ½ cups canned Black Beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup unsalted Brazil nuts / Cashews, lightly toasted
¼ cup unsalted peanuts, lightly toasted
4 tbsp. Olive oil
1 cup finely chopped Onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. grated Ginger
1 tbsp. Tomato Paste
1 ½ cups chopped Tomatoes
1 can Coconut Milk
1 tsp. Turmeric
½ tsp. Paprika
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 Lime
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
In 2 ½ tbsp. of oil, lightly brown the cubed potato and set aside. (Pat the potatoes dry before this step or they will not brown properly and you will end up using more oil)
While the potatoes are browning, grind the nuts till they resemble a fine meal. Set aside.
In 1 ½ tbsp. oil, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger till onions are soft, tender and translucent.
Now add the tomato paste, tomatoes, turmeric, paprika and salt. Sauté for 3 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and a cup of water or veg. stock.
Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Uncover, add more water if desired and add the beans. Simmer for another 5-6 minutes till potatoes are tender.
Remove from heat, add the lime juice and cilantro and serve.
Unlike the original, this stew will not be orange-red but more yellow. It will also be slightly gritty from the nuts. It should only be slightly thick from the nuts, so adjust water/stock accordingly.