Escondidinho de carne seca (Escondidinho means literally: 'Little hidden one') is a very famous North Easter recipe but can be found in restaurants and bars up and down the country. The salty gamey taste of the Carne Seca is perfectly contrasted by the buttery silky texture of the cassava purée. Carne Seca is one of the quintessential flavours of Brazil. It has been popular in the country from very early on in its colonisation and used as a way to store animal protein for long trips. It's very popular in the North East of Brazil, since the arid and hot conditions make it hard to store fresh beef. Cassava is Brazilian's favourite root vegetable and replaces the potato as a main souce of starch in many areas of the country.
Escondidinho (literally: 'Little hidden one') is a very famous North Easter recipe but given the large migration of North Easteners throughout Brazil, the dish can be found in restaurants and bars up and down the country. The combination of the Carne Seca and the cassava purée, topped with Queijo Coalho makes for a great combination of rich meaty salty flavours and creamy silky textures.
Escodidinho de Carne Seca - Beef Jerky Surprise (Courtesy of Flávio Chebabe at Café em Pauta - Rio de Janeiro)
Serves 4 - 6
For the topping:
- 250g Cassava cooked in salted water till fork tender
- 50g butter
- 1/4 cup double cream
- Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the filling:
- Olive oil to fry and garnish
- 400g of Brazilian Beef Jerky cooked and shredded (fat discarded) **
- 2 small red onions cut in fine julienne
- 1 red chilli seeded and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp coriander stalks finely chopped
- 1 tbsp parsley finely chopped
- 1 tbsp spring onions finely chopped
- 100ml of cream cheese
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 1/2 cup hard cured cheese (pecorino, parmesan, queijo coalho) grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the cassava roots and chop into large chunks. Boil until fork tender in salted water. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to touch, split open the chunks and remove the ropey fibres from the centre. Add the butter, double cream and mash into a smooth purée. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to a frying pan and sweat the onions and garlic for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chilli and coriander stalks and mix in. Add the beef jerky, parsley and spring onions and freshly ground black pepper. Stir for 3 - 4 minutes to blend all the flavours.
- Pre-heat the oven to a medium heat.
- Drizze a thread of olive oil on the bottom of a square oven proof porcelain dish. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of cassava mash on the bottom. Spread a thick layer of the beef jerky mixture, spreading evenly. Cover with another layer of cassava mash.
- Mix the cream cheese and double cream and mix until smooth. Pour the creamy mixture over the cassava layer and sprinkle with the grated hard cured cheese (add a few small slices of spring onion for decor). Clean the edges of the dish ensuring no cream or cheese are left on the rim.
- Place in the middle shelf of the oven and grill until the top is golden and the cream is bubbling.
- Serve piping hot.
** Preparing the beef jerky: Brazilian beef jerky (Carne Seca) is a very popular delicacy all over the country but seldon found abroad. Some Portuguese or Brazilian delicatessen sell it in vacum-sealed packs. The beef jerky is preserved in salt and needs to be carefully prepared to remove most of the salt and cleaned of any excess fat or sinews. Boil the meat in a medium pan for 1-2 hours until soft, replacing the water at least 4 times. Pre-packed beef jerky often contain a lot of fat and sinew, so ensure you buy more than then recipe calls for.
Many thanks to Marcia Fialho for introducing me to the Café em Pauta gang and for her help with this shoot.