Food & Drink · Travel

The Trunk in the Attic of Rio de Janeiro

Many years before I met sense and maturity and still dazzle-tranced by excitement, I accepted an invitation to leave my solid, serious, sensible teaching job in London and fly-whisk my life away and move on a whim to Rio de Janeiro to join a boyfriend. He had hypnotized my every bit of common sense, caution and propriety into the gusting winds of passion, all my self-recognition and self-worth!   It was the first real thrust I made out of the life nest in my mid 20s. But, I counted what? Hopes, dreams, stupids and fears — and compromised. Sense and safety prevailed and I side-stepped the ultimate disastrous, feral option and decided on a visit — not a life. . British schools, like American schools have long summer holidays, so I tamped down the effluvient passion and planned a six-week trip to join Gerry de Lothario in Rio de Janeiro! This year’s Rio Olympics has unlocked that old trunk in the attic. And while rummaging around the skimming of tattooed-mind moments and tattered remains of memory embers, I stopped to smile at my first  discovery of Brazilian food. I loved the mixture of European, Amerindian, Middle Eastern and African influences that, then, were recently infiltrated by Japanese cuisine. . Abundant are the tropical fruits, roots, beans, seafood from the long scythe-curved coastline, beef from the southern grasslands and of course typical farmyard animals like chickens, goats and pigs. Street food is in abundance; cachaça-based drinks from sugar cane are ubiquitous. . After travelling all day on a bumpy road in a local bus from Rio up the coast to the edge of Bahia in the north, the bowl of the national dish, feijoada – black bean-meat stew was a delirious revelation to my narrow-palate hunger. . All these years later, quibes from Lebanese kibbeh — lozenge-shaped meatballs —  covered in bulghur wheat appear frequently in my cocktail menus. Cakes made of corn, passion fruit, cassava and more, sweeten any time of day. I could go on . . . . But perhaps my favorite ingredient was the seafood. I’ve selected Moqueca to honor the Olympics in Rio. . Moqueca, originally a Bahian seafood and fish stew now found all over Brazil, is made with palm oil, peppers, tomato and coconut milk. Hopefully the athletes experienced this delightful dish too! RELATED: A Stove Named Gertie


Brazilian Shrimp Moqueca



Yield: Six portions as an entree

Equipment: Cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups and spoons, small metal bowl, large casserole, wooden spoon

½ cup dende (palm) oil
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups minced onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 red chili peppers, minced, deseeded
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 lbs cleaned, peeled 16/20 shrimp
2 ¼ cups shrimp stock, fish stock, clam juice or chicken broth
1 ½ cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste



Heat a large casserole pan. Add palm oil, chopped onion, peppers and cook till softened. Add garlic stirring to combine. Cook for two minutes.

Add tomato paste tempered with stock to loosen it, stock and coconut milk and stirring to combine well, bring to a brief boil. Simmer.

Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper. Add lime juice, sugar, tomatoes and a quarter cup of cilantro.

Cook over moderate heat till shrimp loses transparency.

Sprinkle with remaining cilantro.

Serve with white rice.


RELATED: Ro Howe’s Recipes: Spice-Roasted Golden and Red Beet Salad, Watercress, Candied Pecans

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