When you’re feeling under the weather, all that talk of monsoon romance ebbs away. A persistent gloom filters through the window, lays its unsettling wet fingers on you, and leaves you more lethargic than you were a few moments ago. The big shadows cast by the heavy rain can pull you down, provided you know just the ingredient or dish to lift your spirits. For me, a spicy bean stew is the kind of miracle worker that gets into my nose, jolts awake my tastebuds, and is that unprescribed medicine that sets me on the path to a speedy recovery.
Around the world, people may immediately identify the Feijoada as South American or Portuguese, but for Indians, a Feijoada is Goan. The old-world Portuguese Feijoada recipe included beans, sausage and toasted tapioca flour. The version made by the slaves under the Portuguese colonists however, contained several unidentifiable cuts of leftover pig and black kidney beans, which must have been extremely nourishing, now that I think of it. This is how it would still be made in Brazil today- no fancy spice paste, just a lot of different cuts of meat, some spicy sausage, beans, some chilli, onions, maybe a bayleaf- all of it cooked long and slow. The Brazilian feijoada is judged by how gelatinous it is- the more gluey the better. This will then be served with several accompaniments like farofa (toasted tapioca flour), rice, sliced oranges, cabbage and pork crackling.
Historians place the cassoulet before the feijoada, which too is a dish of beans, pork, duck confit and sausages often cooked in goose fat and eaten during the winters. The first recorded recipe for a French cassoulet was in the 14th century, while Feijoada only makes an appearance with the slave trade of the 16th century. Before either of these came to be, the Culinary Treaty of Bagdad, 7th century BC, sees a recipe for white broad beans and mutton, making it one of the world’s oldest comfort foods, and more recently, my favourite.
In Goa, the feijoada is made today with beige beans or red kidney beans and some recipes ask for Goan chouris sausages only. I like Clyde Oliviera Fernandes’ recipe from GoanFoodRecipes.com because it insists on pre-salted pork, in the tradition of a true Feijoada, together with red beans and a fiery coconut and chilli spice paste. A few things that I changed around in his recipe- the marination time; I couldn’t get myself to salt the pork and keep it in the refrigerator for three days straight, so I cooked it after 2. Next, I used Goan Byadgi chillies in place of Kashmiri chillies because I like the sightly different flavour they impart compared to dried Kashmiri reds. I kept a lot of the spice mix the same, because it’s super delicious.
For The Salted Pork
Pork 500g, boneless
Salt 1 heaped tablespoon
Onions 2, medium-sized
Byadgi chillies 3-4
Kokam 4, cut into pieces
Black-eyed peas 250g
For The Feijoada Masala
Byadgi chillies 4-5
Coconut 5 tbsp freshly grated
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp
Coriander seeds 1 tbsp
Garlic 5 cloves
Poppy seeds 2 tsp
Black pepper corns 4-5
Tamarind a small ball
Make gashes in the boneless pork but don’t slice it all the way through. Sprinkle over the tablespoon of salt and gently rub it all over and keep this stored in the refrigerator for two whole days.
Cut the pork into small pieces or slightly bigger if you feel like it would render quite a bit of fat and shrink. In a heavy bottomed vessel, add the pork and place it on high heat. The pork will start to render its fat and cook in it. Let it not stick by adding water to it periodically. When the pork starts to look cooked, add in the onions, chilli and kokam to it and stir. Once the pieces begin to brown, it should take about 30 minutes to finish cooking. Check by tasting one piece. Fish out the pieces of kokam and set it aside.
Pressure cook your black-eyed peas with some salt as per your pressure cooker’s capabilities (3-4 minutes). Drain the beans and set it aside. Begin toasting your spices for the feijoada one at a time in some oil- add dried chillies, then grated coconut, cumin, fenugreek, coriander, poppy seeds, pepper corns and cloves. Combine this in a blender together with some water, the garlic and the small ball of tamarind.
In the pan with some of the rendered pork fat/flavour, add in the beans together with the blitzed masala and stir it together over a medium flame. Add in a good glug of water and let it cook over a steady medium simmer. Next, add in the pork pieces and let it simmer till done. Check the pieces if they’re done to your liking, add some more salt to taste, and take it off the flame. Serve with hot rice.
Adapted from Clyde Oliviera Fernandes’ original recipe
The Portuguese influence on Christian Goan food can also be seen in dishes like vindalho, sorapatel, balchão and caldeirada.