With the excitement of the Rio Olympics now a distant dream, we now reflect and put a spotlight on Brazil’s tropical and hearty cuisine. The idea of Brazil conjures up the dreamy picture of palm trees, sandy beaches and nothing other than coconuts! And so when visiting Rio, it is difficult to ignore the abundance of fresh coconuts, whether sunbathing on Ipanema beach or being a tourist high up at Christ the Redeemer. No wonder coconuts in all its forms feature in some of Brazil’s most iconic traditional dishes and drinks!
The coconut palm in Sanskrit is known as kappa vrisksha, translated as: ‘tree which gives all that is necessary for living‘. This is somewhat true in the fact that almost all parts of the coconut can be used in one way or another; the water, milk, flesh, sugar, oil and even the husks and leaves!
The extent of coconut’s multi use is seen in these pictures below!
Coconut shells can be used primarily as bowls, or even for wood furniture.
Coconuts are known for their high nutritional content; rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. The fat in coconuts are considered ‘good’ fats in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs). Focusing on one fatty acid in particular, lauric acid, it is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin – an antiviral and antibacterial compound that destroys a variety of disease causing organisms. Therefore the consumption of coconut in its many forms: coconut oil, coconut water, coconut milk or even coconut flour, is therefore incredibly beneficial for ones health and in fighting infections and viruses.
Coconut based products are especially popular with health enthusiasts, vegans and those that are lactose intolerant as coconut milk in particular is lactose free. Coconut milk is therefore a widely used as a milk substitute and diary alternative in baking.
Without further ado, we explore some Brazilian coconut recipes, some traditional and some with a modern twist!
Beijinho de Coco a.k.a Coconut Kisses
Balls of sweet goodness!
- Sweetened condensed milk x1 can
- Sweetened desiccated coconut 1/4 cup
- Butter 1 tbsp
- Desiccated coconut for decoration
- Whole cloves for decorating
Step 1: Bring milk and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the milk has reduced to half and thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the 1/4 cup coconut, and allow to cool a bit before pouring into a buttered bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 2 hours.
Step 2: With buttered or oiled hands, form milk mixture into tablespoon-sized balls, and roll in coconut flakes. Stick a clove into each beijinho as decoration.
Baked desert made of egg yolks, sugar and ground coconut flakes
A favourite from the region of Bahia quindim is a glossy yellow sweet made with nothing more than eggs, sugar and coconut (with butter a common addition). Baked in cupcake-sized moulds, or large if you wish, the bottom is toasted and golden, dense with grated coconut, while the top is a smooth, firm custard that sticks pleasingly to the roof of the mouth.
- White sugar x1 cup
- Shredded coconut x1 cup
- Softened butter 1 tbsp
- Egg yolk x5
- Egg white x1
Step 1: Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
Step 2: Mix the sugar, coconut, and butter in a bowl. Stir in the egg yolks and the egg white; beat until well combined. Pour the mixture into a 9 inch pie plate. Place the pie plate in a large roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the bottom of the roasting pan to reach about half-way up the side of the pie plate.
Step 3: Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before turning out onto a serving dish. Refrigerate until serving.
The Brazilan chocolate trifle
Layers of cookies filled with chocolate or fruit, lemon, coconut
For the chocolate layer
- 20 ladyfinger biscuits
- 2-3 Tbsp Cognac
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1.5 cups cocoa powder
- 2 cans sweet condensed milk
- 4 cups milk (or use the sweet condensed milk’s can to measure)
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 4 egg yolks (strained)
- 1 small container heavy cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Step 1: In a large pot, combine the sweet condensed milk and 3 cups of the milk.
Step 2: Dissolve the corn starch in one cup of milk and add to the pot. Cook that mixture over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until it starts thickening.
Step 3: Separate a cup of the mixture and let it cool.
Step 4: Add the egg yolks to the cooled cream and return it to the pot. Cook until it thickens.
Step 5: Let it cool and pour into a 15×10 baking dish.
Step 6: Place the biscuits into a large bowl and the Cognac into another smaller bowl.
Step 7: Using your fingers, sprinkle the Cognac onto the biscuits.
Step 8: In the same pot you used for the cream, add 2 cups of milk and 1.5 cups of cocoa powder. Cook until it resembles hot chocolate. (It’s supposed to be a liquid mixture, and not a cream!)
Step 9: Dip the biscuits into the chocolate and place them on top of the cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 10: On the next day, make some whipped cream by mixing the heavy cream, the powdered sugar and the vanilla extract. Pour the whipped cream into the baking dish, creating a 3rd layer.
Step 11: Refrigerate for at least 1 more hour before serving.
Step 12: Grate or shave some chocolate on top of the pavê and serve cold.
Some other Brazilian delicacies…
Fermented sugarcane juice
Dating back to the 1500s, cachaça is made from fermented sugarcane juice, and is best known as the fiery kick in caipirinhas – Brazil’s national cocktail.
- Coconut milk 1oz.
- Cachaca 2oz.
- Sugar 1 tsbp
Step 1: Combine ingredients with ice in a blender and pulse until smooth. Serve immediately in a tall glass.
Acai a.k.a superfood berry is used to make fruit bowls and smoothies
Those bright purples bowls you see on Instagram #superhealthy
Of all the thousands of fruits from the Amazon, açaí is the best known, thanks to its super-food status. Traditionally eaten by indigenous tribes for energy, the hard purple berry is also used in Amazonian cooking, as a sauce with fish. A clever marketing campaign in the ’80s thrust it into the spotlight as the energy snack of choice for surfers in glamorous Rio de Janeiro. Served as a sweet, gloopy, frozen sorbet, sometimes topped with granola and slices of banana, or whizzed up in juices, it can found in every café, bakery, juice bar and supermarket across the country.
Tip: add some desiccated coconut on top and serve in a coconut shell for that extra coco-nutty touch!