CiCi CoCo Cookery School And Tagliatelle With Beetroot And Walnut Sauce

Tagliatelle With Beetroot And Walnut Sauce

Tagliatelle With Beetroot And Walnut Sauce

I arrived in Cuddington, an archetypal  small english village, complete with beamed and thatched cottages, a church, dating back to the twelfth century, that hosts the village fete in summer and a welcoming carol service in winter, a tiny village green, a lovely local school,  and even a village shop.  To top it off it’s played host to a few episodes of Midsummer Murders.  This was the venue for my Italian cooking day.

Ingredients For A vegetarian Lunch

Ingredients For A vegetarian Lunch

CiCi CoCo is owned by the award winning Giuliana Cortese and run from her wonderful bright, glass backed cottage in the centre of the village.  I was greeted with a cup of espresso and glorious almond ricotta cake that she’s promised to tell me the secret of making.  After handing us our recipes and an assurance that we wouldn’t even notice the absence of meat (that must have been for my benefit) the preparation of our five course Italian vegetarian lunch began.

We were each given an apron chopping board and knives in two sizes.  These were laid out around the central Island of the kitchen.  Being a small group of just three there was plenty of room, but initially only polite chat.  I tried not to be too irritating with my camera pointed at everything and every step of the recipes and soon we all relaxed and shared the tasks of making lunch.  Giuliana enabled all of us to participate even though there was only one of each dish being made.  We chopped beetroot, grated cheese, peeled onions, salted aubergines, rolled barlotti patties, stirred tomato sauce and bit by bit created wonderful, fragrant dishes in the oven and on the stove top.

Making Pasta with Heritage spelt mix flour

Making Pasta with Heritage spelt mix flour

I particularly enjoyed the pasta making, there is something about Giuliana’s kind no nonsense approach that makes learning easy, a quick demo and then we all made our own dough.  The kneading and resting all explained and the resultant air in the dough demonstrated.  It’s great to learn from an expert how dough should feel when it’s nearly ready and when it’s done.  What it looks like when it’s slightly too wet or dry.  This is years of experience conveyed in a few minutes.

Making Melanzane Alla Parmigiana Di Nonna Lucia

Making Melanzane Alla Parmigiana Di Nonna Lucia

Gradually the long rustic table began to fill with food, Crispy topped Malanzane alla parmigiana Di Nonna Lucia, the wafts of fragrant cheese really making our taste buds tingle. Polpette Di Barlotti con salsa piccante sweet with chilli and tomatoes.  Then heaped in bowls in front of each of us was the beautiful bright pastel pink beetroot and walnut tagliatelle, rich with cream and earthy from the beetroot.  To counter the cream a crisp fennel and pomegranate salad.  Washed down with a choice of white or red Italian wines this was a truly delicious meal.  Not quite over, the final course was a Biancomangiare.  A milky set dessert flavoured with lemon zest, pistachios and cinnamon. delicious, creamy and light.

Fennel And Pomegranate Salad

Fennel And Pomegranate Salad

I had a wonderful Italian filled day with CiCi CoCo and absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn some new Italian dishes.  Giuliana takes beginners or more experienced cooks where you’ll learn about produce, cooking, loving the food and if you concentrate, a little Italian.

RECIPE

Tagliatelle With beetroot And Walnut Sauce From CiCi CoCo Cookery School

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 Beetroot (Peeled and cubed)
  • 2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lemon (Juiced)
  • 200ml Single cream
  • 400g Tagliatelli (fresh or dried)
  • 6 Fresh basil leaves (for serving)
  • 20g Walnuts (finely chopped)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Step 1
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the cubed beetroot. Season and allow to cook with the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft.
Step 2
Add the garlic and lemon juice and cook briefly.
Step 3
Add the cream and let it warm through
Step 4
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and add to the sauce. Off the heat.
Step 5
Mix until all the pasta is coated. Serve with the chopped walnuts, torn basil leaves and topped with the grated parmesan.

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Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin On A Bed Of Samphire And Chorizo

Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin With Chorizo On A Bed Of Samphire

Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin With Chorizo On A Bed Of Samphire

As a small child picking my way through piles of warm sweet muscles or bashing apart fat red crabs, I couldn’t imagine fish ever being as juicy or full of flavour.  I loved how long it took to get to the ‘good’ bits.  Picking out the flesh from the claws, teasing out the plump muscles and downing them with the creamy, wine redolent sauce.  That was seafood to me and fish just didn’t get a look in.

Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin With Chorizo On A Bed Of Samphire

Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin With Chorizo On A Bed Of Samphire

This Parma ham wrapped cod dish is definitely a contender though.  Juicy and plump, saltiness from the Parma ham and a little heat from the chorizo crumbs.  This has now become one of my favourite supper dishes and often asked for by Mr Glam.

RECIPE

Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin On A Bed Of Samphire

Ingredients

  • 400g Cod Loin (Cut in 2)
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 2 thin slices Parma Ham
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 20g Unsalted Butter
  • 40g Chorizo (cut lengthways into long slices)

Directions

Step 1
Season the cod loins with the salt on both sides and wrap with the Parma Ham.
Step 2
Preheat the oven to 200 c
Step 3
Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a low sided pan that can go into the oven as well as on the stove top. When the oil is hot, place the cod top side down into the pan. Don't move it. Leave for 6 minutes and then turn the cod over. The top side should now be golden brown. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Step 4
Turn the cod over again and then place into the oven for 7 minutes. Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a pan and gently fry the chorizo. Remove from the pan, cut into small pieces and set aside.
Step 5
Parma Ham Wrapped Cod Loin
Remove the cod from the oven place back on the stove top and place the butter in the pan. As soon as the butter has melted, spoon over the cod several times to glaze the fish. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Step 6
Place the samphire in the pan, toss and heat through for 2 minutes. Place half the samphire on each plate, top with the cod and then sprinkle with the chorizo, serve.

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Eating Rio – Part Two

Rio Fruit Juice Bar

Rio Fruit Juice Bar

As we burst out of the end of the  street market into the bright sunlight and roar of traffic, there was time to take a deep breath and then on to the next taste of Rio.  A juice bar.  With the plethora of amazing fruit much of which we’d never heard of, It might have been a little daunting to try this without a translator and guide.  From a long alphabetical list we were handed a flimsy cup of peach pink Goiaba (Brazilian Guava) Sweet with a flavour reminiscent of a mix of pear, mango and strawberry.  Then another bendy cup with Caju – (cashew nut) fruit juice, which is sweet and slightly astringent. Having already had our fill of the pressed sugar cane juice, I was nearly at stopping point when the final cup arrived.  Umbu juice – sweet aromatic and slightly acidic.  Well refreshed, if a little awash with liquid (I could have said no) we sauntered down the busy street to our next stop.

Bowl Of Acai

Bowl Of Acai

This was a real surprise.  A simple tiled interior with a sit up bar in the centre and around the perimeter.  There were a few bags of maize on shelves but little else and not much fragrance of food cooking.  A group of locals who knew each other, eyed us with distant disinterest.  It was friendly, but less so than the other places we’d been.  Perched on high stools we were each handed a large bowl of very dark purple thick puree, matt in colour and with a very slight fruit aroma.  This, we were told, was considered to be the fixer of all ails.  Makes men strong, cures illness and wards off sickness.  Acai Berries.  The ads for these wonderberries are everywhere here and I have to admit to being sceptical.  In the Amazon this is medicine.  Eaten every day and an essential part of a young man’s diet.

Amazonian Tacaca Soup

Amazonian Tacaca Soup

The Acai was swiftly followed by a thin soup called Tacaca.  A mix of plump pink prawns and plenty of greenery that left a strange numbing effect on the mouth much like a dental anaesthetic that only lasts thirty seconds, this is the Jambu greens.  It was our first experience of real Amazonian food.

Bright Painted Houses In The Old Slave Quarter Of Rio

Bright Painted Houses In The Old Slave Quarter Of Rio

After a gentle walk through old colonial squares with tranquil sprinkling fountains and past streets of multicoloured houses, we arrived at our final destination in the old slave quarter and market.  Mercado San Jose, is given over to various bars, the most successful of which is  Botero.

Eclectic Seating In Botero Rio De Janeiro

Eclectic Seating In Botero Rio De Janeiro

A bar owned by  Brazilian chef Bruno Magalhaes who spent time in well respected Manhattan eateries and came back to Rio to open a casual restaurant serving updated traditional  bar food.  There’s a choice of eclectic soft seating or tables with red and blue gingham cloths and rush seated chairs.

Gingham covered tables in Botero Rio De Janeiro

Gingham covered tables in Botero Rio De Janeiro

In the evening the atmosphere is lively,  with plenty of beer flowing.  But we’d arrived well after lunch time and it was quiet, allowing us the luxury of taking things easy after the amount we’d already eaten.

 

Pastil At Botero Rio De Janeiro

Pastil At Botero Rio De Janeiro

We began with Pastil, a small rectangular pie that’s deep fried and arrived at the table with a crisp bubbly outer and wonderful savoury interior. I chose Oxtail and watercress, Mr Glam had the salt cod with thyme and black olives.  These were followed by Stracotto Em Cerveja Preta Com Alho Confit, a dish of beef slowly cooked in dark beer and topped with parmesan and confit garlic.  

Finally, after an intro of being the best ever tasted and a wonderful story of a young boy building an empire on the recipe, we tried the Chocolate Brownie.  If the young boy did make his fortune from this dessert I’m not surprised.  I’m still trying to work out how something so gooey could be so light and so very crispy on the outside.  Utterly delicious topped with ice cream and the essential South American Dolce De Leche.  We stayed chatting until late afternoon, only leaving when we realised we’d soon be overtaken by the evening crowd.  

A wonderful food tour by Eat Rio, full of fun and lively chat. It’s great to get a taste of the politics as well as the food and to have found out so much about Rio that we certainly couldn’t have done on our own.
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Stokes BBQ Sauce Burgers And Bloody Mary Corn Salsa

BBQ Burger With Taleggio Cheese And Corn Salsa

BBQ Burger With Taleggio Cheese And Corn Salsa

The weather has been great so far this summer, but now the unpredictable rain has set in.  We still want the smoky flavour of BBQ even if I can’t persuade Mr Glam to stand in the wet to cook it.

Stokes Bloody Mary Sauce, Barbecue Sauce And Tomato Ketchup

Stokes Bloody Mary Sauce, Barbecue Sauce And Tomato Ketchup

BBQ Sauce burgers are the answer.  Good quality lean mince mixed with chopped shallots and sweet, smoky Stokes BBQ sauce generously spooned into the meat and massaged well to make a fabulous, flavourful burger.  Team that with charred corn, fresh tomatoes and a Stokes Bloody Mary Sauce to give depth and fire.  A perfect accompaniment to a beautiful burger.

RECIPE

BBQ Burger With Taleggio Cheese In Tomato Focaccia

BBQ Burger With Taleggio Cheese In Tomato Focaccia

BBQ Burgers (makes 2 or 4 burgers)

Ingredients

  • 400g Good quality beef mince
  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons Stoke BBQ sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200g Taleggio cheese (sliced into 8)
  • 2 or 4 Focaccia rolls (I used tomato focaccia rolls)
  • salad leaves and sliced cucumber if desired

Directions

Step 1
Place the mince in a medium sized mixing bowl, add the shallots and mix well
Step 2
Add the BBQ sauce and using your hands mix the sauce through the meat, squeezing the meat through your hands
Step 3
Form into patties, pressing the meat together well, season both sides and brush with oil
Step 4
Place in a griddle or frying pan over a moderate heat, for 10 minutes before flipping over. If you are forming the mixture into 2 burgers rather than 4, they will take 15 minutes each side. There's sugar in the BBQ sauce which will burn if the heat is too high
Step 5
Place 2 slices of taleggio cheese on the cooked side of each burger whilst the underside cooks for a further 10 minutes.
Step 6
Cut the focaccia rolls in half and toast the bottom half. Place the top half cut side down in the pan after the burgers have been removed for about 5 minutes
Step 7
Place the salad and cucumber on the bottom layer, top with the burger a little of the salsa, recipe below and place the top of the focaccia roll on top. Serve with fries or salad.

BBQ Burger With Bloody Mary Sauce Charred Corn Salsa

BBQ Burger With Bloody Mary Sauce Charred Corn Salsa

Chargrilled Corn Bloody Mary Salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 Fresh Corn Cobs
  • 1 Shallot (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 Pointed red pepper (finely Chopped)
  • 1 Red chilli, adjust to taste (finely chopped)
  • 3 Tomatos (Core removed and finely chopped)
  • 5 tablespoons Stokes Bloody Mary Sauce

Directions

Step 1
Charred Corn Cob
Place the corn cobs in a hot heavy bottomed frying pan or griddle. Turn as the corn chars
Step 2
Put all the other ingredients except the Bloody Mary Sauce, in a bowl and mix together
Step 3
Once the corn is charred, not burnt, on all sides, remove it from the pan and standing the cobs on end slice down the length with a sharp knife taking the kernels off the cob. Mix these into the tomato mix with the Bloody Mary Salsa

Stokes Sauces sent me the sauces without any obligation to review them, I was delighted  as I use them regularly at home and all they are popular with all the Glams

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Rio Maracanã And Coconut Beijinhos

Hoarding Outside The Nearly Complete Maracana

Hoarding Outside The Nearly Complete Maracana

“We’ve arranged a very special tour for you,” the guide announced. “the Maracanã Stadium.” I groaned inwardly.  It was three weeks before the start of the World Cup in Rio.  A football related ‘something’ was inevitable, but a whole morning!  We piled onto sleek coaches and set off across Rio.  It was our first day and so first glimpse of the diverse city.  Favalas like coloured matchboxes tossed in a pile, huge engineering structures with rather more than three weeks until completion.  Stuccoed colonial houses, dripping with architectural detail and shiny shopping centres filled with goods many of the population couldn’t afford.

In The Changing Room Of The Maracana Stadium

In The Changing Room Of The Maracana Stadium

We gathered in the entrance lobby and were split into smaller groups.  It soon became clear that our visit was more than just a look at turf.  A quick glance at Pelle’s bronze preserved foot prints and we were off to the changing rooms.  The men in the group were as excited and pushy as shoppers at the first day of Harrod’s sale.  Each desperate to get a selfie with their Hero’s shirt.  Whilst I wandered around asking “Who does he play for?” (other than Brazil, obviously).  I have to admit I was getting into the spirit and had to take a picture of the communal bath.  Who knew there was an astro turf practice room, no windows of course and that the press area could be so small?

Maracana Stadium - Lone groundsman Mowing Stripes

Maracana Stadium – Lone groundsman Mowing Stripes

Then, with stringent warnings about keeping off the turf, we were led through an archway high above the pitch.  Stretched steeply below us and in every direction, like blue and yellow post-its were the rows of seats.  One lone groundsman carefully mowing stripes into the pitch far below.  There was a moment of awe inspired hush, then we slowly made our way down the steps to the edge of the grass and more scrabbling for seats in the ‘dugout’ and selfies.  A group photo and it was all over.  Momentarily I lost Mr Glam before spotting him eyeing up a strange selection of cakes.  As none of them were familiar to us, he randomly picked a small white ball covered in coconut in a tiny cup cake paper.  Biting into the sweet, almost custard like sphere he declared it the highlight of the morning so far and spent the rest of the trip trying to find another.

Condensed Milk Coconut Beijinhos

Condensed Milk Coconut Beijinhos

Rio Beijinhos

Ingredients

  • 1 can 379g condensed milk
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes
  • 50g dessicated coconut

Directions

Step 1
Put the condensed milk and butter into a sauce pan over a moderate heat, stir constantly until the mixture starts to come away from the sides
Step 2
Pour into a shallow dish lined with parchment paper and allow to cool slightly
Step 3
Pour the desiccated coconut into a flat dish. Oil your hands, take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Roll in the coconut and place on parchment paper or into a mini cupcake paper
Step 4
For a variation you can roll the balls in cocoa or chocolate

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A Touch Of Nostalgia – Milo Ice Cream

Milo Ice Cream

Milo Ice Cream

Dusk would settle in, as would we in our old fashioned ward.  Nine metal beds lined up facing each other and one by the door for the very ill.  It was all relative, as this was a school infirmary and the usual complaints were coughs, colds and the occasional Streptoccocol throat that warranted the bed by the door.  At 6.30, our faded flowery quilts pulled up tight and pillows plumped for the night, Nurse would come round for bedtime drinks orders.  The universal request was MILO!  The malted granules would float on the cold milk, no one wanted it hot, and we’d spoon them off, one crunchy mouthful after another reluctantly finishing the milk.

Milo Ice cream With Milo Sprinkles

Milo Ice cream With Milo Sprinkles

This treat was strictly for pupils that were ill. You could go terms without a sniff of a bedtime drink and so for all of us Milo became a real treat.  As nostalgia beckoned I’ve made a creamy, malted version of that drink, with just a sprinkle of Milo to finish the top.

Milo Ice Cream With Crunchy Milo Sprinkles

Milo Ice Cream With Crunchy Milo Sprinkles

Milo Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 8 Egg Yolks
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 500ml Double Cream
  • 500ml Full Fat Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste
  • 45g Milo (Plus extra for sprinkling)

Directions

Step 1
In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with 100g of the sugar, until the mixture is light in colour. Set aside
Step 2
Put the cream, milk, the remainder of the sugar, milo and vanilla into a saucepan over and moderate heat and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes
Step 3
Whisking the eggs continually, pour the cream mixture into the eggs, then pour back into the saucepan and stir continuously over a moderate heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Step 4
Pour into a bowl and cover directly onto the custard with cling film to stop a skin forming. Once cool place in an Ice Cream churner and Churn for the required time. Eat immediately or place in an airtight container in the freezer. Serve sprinkled with a little Milo

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Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Molasses

Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Mollases

Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Mollases

Long warm evenings in the garden, laughing and chatting over a simple meal and an icy glass of  white wine are a rarity in the often wet and unpredictable summers we have here.  But when the sun does come out, it can be very hot and a simple selection of salads can be just as tasty and enjoyable as a meaty BBQ.

Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Mollasses

Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Mollasses

This salad can be prepared ahead and dressed just before serving.  Crunchy blanched broccoli, charred courgettes with a hint of citrus from the Sumac and sweet sharpness from the pomegranate molasses dressing.  Perfect with fish or meat or as part of a salad selection.

RECIPE

Broccoli And Courgette Salad With Sumac And Pomegranate Molasses

Ingredients

  • 370g broccoli florets
  • 700g large courgettes (thinly sliced lengthways)
  • 40g toasted pinenuts
  • 1 teaspoon Sumac
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the salad
Step 1
Place the broccoli florets into boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or until the stalks are just soft. Drain and set aside
Step 2
Slicing The Courgettes With A Cheese Parer
Slice the courgettes lengthways into thin slices, using a cheese parer makes this easy. Heat a griddle or frying pan over a medium to high heat and place the courgettes singly in the pan. Turn once the courgettes are browned on one side and repeat for the other side. Remove, place flat on kitchen paper and repeat until all the courgettes are griddled. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt
For the dressing
Step 3
For the dressing mix together the olive oil, pomegranate molasses and 1/2 teaspoon of the sumac
For the salad
Step 4
Layer the broccoli and courgettes, sprinkle with the pine nuts and pour over the dressing. Sprinkle with the remainder of the sumac and serve

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Summer Strawberries, Cordial With Passionfruit And Ice Lollies

Strawberry, Passionfruit And Honey Yogurt Lolly

Strawberry, Passionfruit And Honey Yogurt Lolly

Crouching over emerald green bushes, stuffing the perfect warm summer ripeness of strawberries into my mouth, two for me, one for the punnet.  This was my summer as a child, the excitement of the start of the PYO season.  Piling into the car to make the journey out of London and into the green fields of Surrey and the strawberry farms.

Strawberries And Passionfruit

Strawberries And Passionfruit

This sweetest of fruit, that went from dearth to glut in a matter of a few sun filled days had to be picked and preserved.  The truggs were shared out, filled and another grabbed, then the fruit carefully weighed and paid for.  I’d hand over my ample collection watching the weighing, red mouthed and sticky. Then it was time to preserve the delicate fruit for the remainder of the year, producing glorious jams, tarts, cordials and if we were lucky ice lollies.  Prolonging the wonderful British summer fragrance and sweetness.

RECIPE

Strawberry And Passionfruit Cordial

Strawberry And Passionfruit Cordial

Strawberry And Passionfruit Cordial

Makes 1 and 1/2 litres, Just over 3 US pints

  • 1kg (10 cups) strawberries
  • 900g (5 cups) caster sugar
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 80g (6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) citric acid
  • Pulp and seeds from 8 passionfruit

Method

  • Remove the stalk and slice the strawberries in half
  • Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 250g of the sugar and place in the fridge over night
  • The following day, place the remainder of the sugar in a pan with 1 litre of water, bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar has melted, remove from the heat
  • Place the lemon, citric acid and the passion fruit in the bowl with the strawberries, pour over the sugar syrup and stir
  • Leave to cool, then cover and place somewhere cool and dark for 3 days
  • Taste the cordial to see if it is strong enough, if not leave for a further day, then sieve into a clean jug, using a nylon sieve lined with muslin
  • Pour into sterilised bottles, seal and place in the fridge, it should keep refrigerated for up to 6 months

RECIPE

Strawberry, Passionfruit And Honey Yoghurt Ice Lolly

Strawberry, Passionfruit And Honey Yoghurt Ice Lolly

Strawberry And Passionfruit Cordial And Yogurt Ice Lolly

Makes 6 Ice Lollies

  • 2 large strawberries, sliced
  • 400ml strawberry and passionfruit cordial or bought cordial cordial
  • 200 ml of water to dilute cordial
  • 300g plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey

Method

  • Turn the freezer to the coldest setting, the faster the lollies freeze the smaller the ice crystals and the smoother the lollies
  • Place 1 slice of strawberry in each mould as close to one side as you can get it to stay
  • Dilute the cordial and fill the mould 1/3 of the way up, place in the freezer for 30 minutes  to 1 hour until slightly frozen
  • Mix the yogurt and honey together, remove the lollies from the freezer and place a wooden stick (if using) into each one, into the partly frozen mixture
  • Fill a further third of the way with the honey yogurt, place back in the freezer for an hour or so
  • Finally, fill the remainder of the mould, leaving a gap for expansion when it freezes, with the remainder of the cordial. Replace in the freezer overnight
  • To remove from the lolly moulds dip into hot water for a minute and then ease the lolly out, if stuck repeat

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Eating Rio – Part One

Selaron Self Portrait As A Pregnant Woman

Selaron Self Portrait As A Pregnant Woman

Staring at the pregnant Man/Woman on the tiled steps in Lapa made me understand the diversity of Rio and of the food to be found there.  We were half way through our food tour and the brightly coloured steps, all the work of Escadaria Selaron, (the pregnant man/woman in the tiled self portrait) were mobbed with tourists and locals alike.

Selaron Steps

Selaron Steps

The guy strumming his weathered, scratched guitar good naturedly offered his leite de onça (cachaça with condensed milk) from a re-used water bottle.  Students scrambled up the side plinths and posed for Selfies and children ran up and down the stairs, red faced and panting by a third of the way up.  A constant samba beats an accompaniment to the rise and fall of the multilingual crowd, while the Carioca (Rio locals) simply used the steps to get from Lapa to Santa Theresa.

Nova Capela, White coated Waiters And Neon Chope Sign

Nova Capela, White coated Waiters And Neon Chopp Sign

We’d begun in a very traditional bar in Lapa, a Boteco.  This bastion of the sixties had changed very little since then, either inside or out, but it was to be our first introduction to the real city away from our indulgent hotel and an opportunity to see the edgy, street art and food heart of Rio

Brazilian cod balls

Bolinho De Bacalhau

Four golden breadcrumbed balls of Bolinho De Bacalhau, with little flecks of green were served on a plate with a Choppé each (pronounced shoppie) a tall glass of very cold beer with the essential foamy head.  Typical Boteco food, crispy coated Norwegian salt cod mixed with potato, coriander and a little onion.  In the cool, dimly lit bar, served by white coat clad waiters, we were introduced to the others on the food tour and the plans for tasting the real Brazil.

Rio Street Art, Including A Piece By Selaron On The World Cup

Rio Street Art, Including A Piece By Selaron On The World Cup

We’d been told that graffiti was everywhere in Rio.  Whilst that’s true, most of it is as far from the careless tags we see daubed here, as you can get.  This is genuine street art, often with a political and social undercurrent but always bold, expressive and super-sized.  A short walk from the Boteco led us past streets of amazing activist work, commentary on the Favelas, the World Cup and religion.  Until we came to the ultimate in graffiti and those steps I mentioned.

The banana Seller In The Rio Market

The banana Seller In The Rio Market

We arrived at the market crossing the narrow street between candy coloured houses.  Sturdy upturned wooden and plastic crates crossed with rough planks made up the stalls. The fish stacked high on a bright blue and white cloth, the seaside look belying the fishy stench.  This is not a world of iced meat and fish, this is stack it and sell it.  But the turn over was brisk with money changing hands as fast as the hawkers could move the goods.

Stacked Fish; Spice grinder; Chillies To Choose From

Stacked Fish; Spice grinder; Chillies To Choose From

Markets abroad are always treasure troves of colour and new produce to discover.  Rio had so much to offer, swathes of brightly coloured chillies from the hot to the blindingly unbearable.  Red, orange and brilliant green, laid out in perfect rows.  Then, lines of purple striped garlic, the outer skin peeled to reveal fat cloves clustered around the central core.  The stalls seemed to specialise.  On one, varieties of frothy green lettuces, another bright tomatoes in every size and colour. Yet another, tiny bananas, oozing sap and sweetness.  I was astonished that the grapefruit, large and yellow splodged with green, turned out to be passion fruit.  Very much larger and more yielding than the ones we see in the UK, but so very sweet and tart.

Making Tapioca pancakes

Making Tapioca pancakes

After tasting some of the fruit we moved on to the Manioc pancake stand, tapioca to most of us, which is a staple in Rio for both savoury and sweet dishes.  Dry tapioca is thrown into smoking iron pans over portable burners.  As it heats up the tapioca melds together creating a white crepe, this is spread with a surprisingly prosaic choice of fillings, mine was cheese and tomato and then flipped in half and served.  Delicious but with a distinctive nobbly texture.

Spices; Bananas; Frothy Lettuces; Persimmons

Spices; Bananas; Frothy Lettuces; Persimmons

The next stall held brightly coloured piles of ground spices peeping from plastic carrier bags wedged tightly together.  Beige, sunshine yellow, bright red, jet black, ochre and dusky brown, like a palette of children’s powder paints.  The aroma sweet and peppery.   An old fashioned hand grinder, precariously clamped to an unsteady looking crate was ready to grind to order whole spices.

Pouring sugar cane juice

Pouring Sugar Cane Juice

The noise from the crowd grew louder competing with the grind of a portable machine in the corner as the road took a sharp left turn.  Awnings threw into deep shade the spitting vats that were being used to cook the empanadas. In the back of a van sugar cane was being forced into a whining, clanking machine to produce a semi opaque green tinged drink. Neat Sugar  in a glass.  With the addition of a squeeze of lime it was drinkable but not by the half pint glasses it was being served in.

Toffee covered condensed milk sweets

Toffee covered condensed milk sweets

Wafting up the street from the end of the market, was the distinctive sweet smell of boiling sugar.  Laid out in front of large shallow toffee making pans were polythene bags of condensed milk balls covered in crispy toffee, like golden Maltesers.  Grabbing a bag of these wonderful treats we made our way back to the main road and into the bright Rio sunshine.

Tom from Eat Rio is a consummate foodie with a great knowledge of Rio life, politics and the underbelly of conspiracy theories.  We had a fab day with him and I would strongly recommend his tour.  It was a lucky find on Google.

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A Persiana Tasting Lunch With Sabrina Gayhour

Sabrina Ghayour Signing Her Book Persiana

Sabrina Ghayour Signing Her Book Persiana

Sabrina Gayhour described herself as  “… not a chef, I’m the dorky events girl who liked food.”  She’s proof that sometimes being made redundant can be the best thing that happens to you.  I wonder, if she’d still been in events marketing, if she would’ve dug into her Persian heritage and set up her very successful, Sabrina’s Kitchen Supper Club? Or produced a wonderful cookery book, Persiana,  full of glorious Middle Eastern flavours? Continue reading

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