Right. I am going to add a bit of the review before the usual preamble. Vatapa is highly interesting and tastes great. Acaraje is a mega hassle, didn’t work, drove me totally nuts and looks rubbish photographed. Back to the preamble….
The choosing of the country was pretty amusing this week, as it was chosen by a very good friend of mine (Dom) without realising what he was doing. We were discussing how we hadn’t had him round to dinner in a while so he suggested this Thursday. I said that was perfect and therefore he could chose the country. At this point I realised that very few of my friends actually know I do this blog, and he stood there with a blank expression and simply replied “you what mate?”.
I decided I would make him choose before actually telling him what I did, which went a bit like this:
ME: “Just give me a number Dom – I’ll explain in a minute”
ME: “Mate, don’t worry about it, just give me a number”
DOM: “Joe this is weirding me out a bit – what are you on about”
ME: “Dom….number” (a bit sterner this time)
DOM: “alright mate, chill out, 47″
ME: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. You are eating food from Brazil this week mate due to the number you selected”
DOM “you what?”
And that was the conversation. I explained things later and he seemed pretty excited about things -which then made me realise I needed to get researching quick to get something which was a crowd pleaser.
I plumped for Vatapa and Acaraje as they were very traditional and were quite different to the past few weeks. Vatapa is a prawn type curry, made interesting by mountains of salted peanuts and soaked bread. Acaraje is a black eye pea and prawn fritter.
I need to be very clear here, black eye peas are a pain, a mega pain! At 6 pm I sat down to skin the buggers and by 7pm I had done a third. Each little one (I think there were possibly 3000) I had to squeeze and peel, but each time I peeled one, the skin stuck to my hands which meant I had to flick it off and most ended up on the legs of my table! I decided at that point that a third was enough and we would have some rice with it. The rest of the process was just as much of a hassle, as when I went to fry them, they completely fell to pieces and drowned in the oil. When I drained them to serve, they had to be put back together which probably meant they had taken on 3 times too much oil. I am highly confident I wont be making them again. I am not made for Acaraje, even though they are probably very good when done on a street stall in Rio.
Vatapa is a totally different job. It was incredibly simple to do and tasted great (if not a little salty). It was very different to any curry I had made before due to the ingredients (peanuts and prawns) but Dom was pretty happy with it.
Vatapa is great. If you want a completely different type of curry which has heat in depth and doesn’t need meat, then this is you guy. However, it is quite salty and due to the fact that it had two cups of salted nuts in it, it isn’t a low calorie dish!
Acaraje might be good, but mine were crap. It was a slog to make and just when I thought I was done, they fell into a thousand bits. I think I need to go to Brazil to know what these are supposed to be like, but my Western European hands could not feel the samba required to make these. I would imagine they need samba hands and I used town-hall -ballroom-dancing hands.
Finally – the pic is a bit crappy this week. Looks like mush. Don’t be too put off though. The Vatapa is good!
Take 4 slices of white bread and rip them up. Put them in a bowl and soak with Coconut Milk. After 10 mins or so, blitz it all into a paste in a food processor.
After cleaning the processor, then grind up 200g of salted peanuts and put them aside
Bring to the boil 500ml of fish stock in a pan and then add a chopped clove of garlic and juice of a lime.
Back in the processor, blend an onion, two chillies and another garlic clove. Put that in a large dish and gently fry in oil. After about 7 mins add the ground nuts and keep it going for 5 mins more.
Now throw everything outstanding together and let it cook for about 7-10 mins. It will thicken up well with the bread-paste.
Don’t ask me. Mine were crap. Look it up online!