Tag Archives: food

Heat, droughts and an Indian Feast

20 Jan

I’ve been neglectful over the past few weeks. I should have had lots of time over to post during the quiet Christmas . I thought that I would be incredibly sad, missing family and friends but it felt like such a different world and such a different experience that it was hard to correlate the hot weather and sunshine with Christmas Day. And Christmas Day was hot…the thermometer hit 43.2 C across Rio, the highest ever recorded temperature. We decided it was the perfect day to cook an Indian curry! We surrounded the table with four fans as an attempt to try and keep cool, it didn’t stop the sweat dripping.

An Indian Feast on Christmas Day in Brazil

An Indian Feast on Christmas Day in Brazil

Its amazing the lethargy that the heat brings on, the imperative to slow down, lie down, rest, sleep early and the difficulty to generate enthusiasm and excitement to think, communicate, do new things. But this heat is not just a personal challenge. The North East of the country has been suffering the worst drought in 30 years, the amount of milk produced in many states has dropped by 40 – 50% with many animals dying. Friends visiting the Chapada Diamantina near Salvador recently walked along dry riverbeds, in the rainy season! Around 90% of the electrical energy used in Brazil is hydroelectricity. The drought has resulted in low levels of the reservoirs, down to 28-30% of normal levels across the country, a decrease in energy production and a tripling of the use of thermal power plants. Attempts to ensure the continuity of electricity supply by opening the floodgates at hydroelectric plants is depleting the reservoirs even faster. At the same time the high temperatures cause an increase in energy consumption as the use of air conditioning rises. Electricity prices will continue to rise, where inflation was already at 7.8% last year, as well as CO2 emissions.

This has coincided with droughts across the world, particularly in North America, resulting in much higher soybean and corn prices. The result of this, lots of farmers in Brazil switching to growing soybean and corn instead of other crops such as cotton, rises in land prices and huge pressure to convert more land to agriculture.

Its a worrying and vicious cycle if the effects of a changing climate, decreasing agricultural yields and rising food prices just results in the conversion of more land for agriculture, increased habitat destruction, emissions from land-use change and the loss of carbon sinks.

Thankfully the rain has now returned to Rio…abnormally so, with temperatures closer to that of the winter. But I’m not complaining. The fans are silent and our energy has returned!

An abundance of mangos

22 Dec

The mango season has arrived and with it the most delicious array of sweet, succulent golden nectar. Mango trees are like apple trees in the UK….abundant. Lining the streets, in gardens, dotting the university park. And now they hang like droplets slowly ripening to yellow, red, pink and purple. Especially delicious are the tiny yellow round Caroltina with a delicious sweet and spicy flavour. They haven’t been cultivated to the extent of the ones that arrive in Europe and North America so the stone is large, they are very fibrous, and bruise easily but the flavour is incredible! We’ve been buying them from a lovely man at our local market who currently is just selling  about ten varieties of mangos. There are also some beautiful rosy heart-shaped mangos which I can’t wait to try when they ripen.

A windfall of Espada mangos

A windfall of Espada mangos

The evening wind and rain we’ve been having recently (a grateful relief from the oppressive humidity) brought me a windfall of Espada mangos at the university (also delicious). I was inspired to make mango chutney as christmas presents, forgetting that nobody here would have any idea what mango chutney is!  Lets hope it tastes good and goes well with feijoada as well as curries.

Mango chutney ready for the jars

Mango chutney ready for the jars

Mango chutney Christmas presents under the tres

Mango chutney Christmas presents under the tres

Christmas is coming…

15 Dec Our gorgeous little christmas tree

Today I have totally embraced Christmas. Despite the weather I am determined to bring some of the customs and traditions that make it so special. So today the house has been wafting in the smells of Christmas and been adorned with treasures. I’m already beginning to feel a warm glow and excitement…though the men around me aren’t helping!

I made mincemeat. I’ve never actually made it before, just helped to stir my mum’s delicious version. Lacking both suet and brandy it was a slight variation on the traditional mincemeat combining a various recipes. I just kind of threw everything together, some dried raisins, sultanas and candied peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and lemon, grated apple, muscovado sugar and a liberal helping of whiskey. Luckily we did have some appropriate alcohol, non-boozy mincemeat just wouldn’t be right. And ahh the smell…. it’s my memory of the start of Christmas, the spices, fruits and juices mingling into a heavenly scent. I have to say it also already tastes pretty good! But we’ll wait for the taste test at the end of the week when I’ll be making mincepies for various Christmas parties. We’ll see what the Brazilians make of it. So far British food has got a thumbs up…lemon posset, shortbread and scones have all been a hit!

I’ve also been decorating the house. We didn’t want to buy anything because we probably won’t be here again next year but it’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of crepe paper, some wire, a few branches from the garden and a bit of ribbon. I borrowed a few ideas of the internet for the wire and watercolour angels but I’m so pleased with the result! Now we just need to plan something special for Christmas Day! But I’m looking forward to carols by candlelight tomorrow night.

Mincemeat

Mincemeat

Our cute christmas wreath

Our cute christmas wreath

Our gorgeous little christmas tree

Our gorgeous little christmas tree

 

 

 

 

Brasil belissima…Paraty and Ilha Grande

11 Nov

I feel as though I am gloating slightly writing these posts, reveling in all the natural beauties of Brazil that I’ve been so lucky to see. But what I want to share are how my eyes have been opened. I can’t remember well what were my preconceptions of Brazil before I arrived. I think I thought of beaches, of samba, Carnival and was frightened by the stories of crimes and violence and wondered whether I would be able to walk around the streets feeling safe at all. And of course any country is so much richer than these surface images, with so many layers and contradictions. Brazil is certainly a rich tapestry, of peoples, history, food, music, culture and landscapes and the more I explore the richer it becomes.

Paraty

Paraty is an old colonial town, four hours bus ride from Rio de Janeiro but still within Rio de Janeiro State. Its nestled on the seas edge in a curving bay dotted with islands along the emerald green coast. Mountains rise beyond it, leading to Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais and the old gold trails that brought gold from the mines in the interior and made this town sumptuously rich. Boats would depart laden with the treasure to Europe, until the bay became too small for the ships and the town was mostly abandoned. This though has done wonders for its tourist industry, almost entirely preserving the old town complete with giant ankle-wrecking street stones and beautiful white-washed houses. It is picture-postcard perfect, a little too perfect, but lovely for a quiet stroll.

Hiring an brightly painted old fishing boat, decked out for tourists these days, gives you the best view of the town from the water and enabled us to explore the remote beaches, swim in crystal clear water with hundreds of dancing fish and turtles. The waterfalls in the mountains nearby are also famous along with their cachaça distilleries and daredevil antics, including one with an enormous rock you can slide down into the water. On your bum if you’re a visitor, surfing style if you’re a local (young man).

But my best memories are of the most delicious food that we ate at a tiny beachside restaurant called Quiosque Encantado (Enchanted Bar). It had just been started by a local couple and every night we went there they had a different incredible meal using local fresh ingredients. We sampled a local moceque (fish stew) cooked gently on the barbeque with banana, manioc and prawns in a clear rich broth imbibing it with a delicious smoky flavour. We ate fresh squid delicately grilled and seafood pasta with enormous quantities of perfectly cooked prawns, mussels and cockles collected from the beach in a divine tomato sauce. The food was out of this world, I can almost taste it whilst I’m writing this. With the sand under our feet and a full moon rising over the sea, it was idyllic.

If you are looking for it the bar is on Praia Jabaquara and is the kiosk furthest from Paraty, just after Restaurante La Luna. Enjoy!

Paraty from the sea

Paraty from the sea

Paraty's historic streets

Historic streets

Beach hopping

Beach hopping

Heading out of the sunshine

Heading out of the sunshine

Waterfalls in the verdant mountains

Waterfalls in the verdant mountains

David describing the best moqueca in the world!

David describing the best moqueca in the world!

Grilled fish and squid

Grilled fish and squid

and the perfect view..

and the perfect view..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilha Grande

As if these earthly delights weren’t enough we travelled on to Ilha Grande (big island). It lies just off the coast, about 2 hours from Rio de Janeiro. The history of the island, most recently as a prison for the ‘most dangerous criminals’ in Brazil has resulted in its steeply ridged interior remaining covered in verdant Atlantic rainforest.  Stunning isolated beaches are dotted around the island, with azure waters, reachable only by boat or by trekking through the forest. Its a decadent lifestyle with sunbathing and relaxation punctuated only by dips in the sea, caiparinhas, walks in the forest and eating.

Heading towards Ilha Grande

Heading towards Ilha Grande

Relaxing with fantastic views - Praia Abraaozinho

Relaxing with fantastic views – Praia Abraaozinho

The only way to get around...

The only way to get around…

Sand so fine it crunches under the foot like snow and falls gently into the clear sea

Sand so fine it crunches under the foot like snow and falls gently into the clear sea

Walking through the forest around Ilha Grande

Walking through the forest around Ilha Grande