here’s something really special about the Olympics, and this year in Rio was no different. More than 40 separate sports disciplines were represented, in 37 different venues, with 206 countries sending their most talented and strongest athletes to compete. And I watched intently from the comfort of my flat – in total awe of the dedication and strength of character needed to compete at such a level – while reaching for the wine and cheese! South American food has made something of an impact on the world dining scene of late, in particular the fresh and clean flavours of Peruvian cuisine, along with the flavours of Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Brazil, however, is still trying to find a foothold in the hearts of the British public. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some great dishes, just that the various nationalities who have inhabited the country for long periods of time means there is no real definitive ‘national cuisine’ as such. Instead, the cuisine tends to be very regional, with each region leaning more toward Africa, Portugal, America or India. There’s one dish, however, that most people would agree on: the ‘national dish’ known as feijoada, a hearty stew usually containing smoked, salted bacon, and various cuts of pork and beef (ranging from ribs to shoulders, ears and tails, depending on the region, the occasion and the wealth of the family preparing the stew). There are also beans in there (which give the stew its name), which can vary, but tend to be either the black beans favoured in a lot of South America, or kidney beans. As for wine, well, it has long been acknowledged that Argentina and Chile make some stunning examples of Malbec and Carmenere respectively, but there’s actually a great deal more to discover. With this in mind I set off to my favourite local wine shop, Great Western Wine, and asked for something a little different;
something which wasn’t going to break the bank, but would challenge me to try something new. Now, I must admit to being one of the heathen few not sold on Chilean wines; I tend to find them quite raw, and a bit rough around the edges. However, I wanted to give them another chance, perhaps trying a different grape variety – and so it was that I stumbled (with a little help, and much persuasion) across the Primera Luz Merlot. Although somewhat dubious due to the bargain price tag of £6.95, and the fact that Merlot is not a grape variety that I would automatically think of when considering a Chilean wine, I conceded. Upon first taste I was still a little doubtful, but I put my prejudices aside and took another sip, and was starting to be won over. Here was a wine that cost less than half a day’s parking almost anywhere in Bath, yet which was elegant and fresh, fruity and juicy, and eminently quaffable. I took two. Thing is, when it came to cooking my feijoada to match my wine, the sun was shining and the thought of a heavy stew didn’t fill me with desire, even if it is delicious. So, I took the principal of the dish and lightened it up, making it more of a summery, sharing meal. I was already in South America in my head, wearing my Havaianas and bopping along to some chilled South American tunes, so I took the leap to Mexico with a feijoada taco. With all of the freshness of the red onion, avocado and tomato salsa, yet the deep richness of the stewed meat, countered by the fresh yoghurt, I thought it would make for more of a summer classic. So, I present to you my (almost Brazilian, but certainly South Americaninspired) feijoada tacos. In my version, the stew is made without the beans, which are cooked separately along with some tangy tomato, an avocado guacamole and some fresh zingy yoghurt to lighten things up. These are great served in pots to allow people to build their own at the table, and are a winning companion to my chosen wine.
SWEET CHILD OF
A GOOD SPORT Inspired by the Rio Olympics, columnist Chris Staines comes up with a simple South American dish to match his chosen tipple…