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Mini Acarajés

Acaraje - a deep fried treat from Salvador, Bahia

Delicious bite size black-eye-peas fritters friend in palm oil.Acarajé is almost synonymous with city of Salvador, in Bahia. In every well populated corner of this large city you will find a 'Bahiana' - a street vendor dressed in the typical frilly white outfit - selling these golden deep-fried snacks. The strong perfume of the hot palm oil penetrates the nose from miles away - beckoning your nearer like a moth to a candle flame. Acarajés are done fresh on the spot. The Bahiana scoop a lump of bean paste and shape with a couple or large spoons, then lay it into the hot oil. And while it's bubbling away in the bright orange lava, she'll have time to describe the battery of assaults each of the sauces will unleash on your taste buds. She'll probably ask if you want it 'hot' or 'cold'. Beware, she's not talking about the temperature of the actual fritter, she's more interested in your level of tolerance to the Malagueta pepper. Unless you have vindaloos for breakfast, stay away from the hot.

Once your fritter is done, she'll splice it in two and fill it with your chosen sauce and add a couple of prawns to garnish.

I have prepared Acarajé a few times before but 2 main reasons keep me from doing it more often: 1. For such simple dish it requires a lot of preparation  2. We're talking beans here. So the next day I turn into 'Gassius Maximus' - the Roman gladiator with a lethal secret weapon (geddit?).

But since this recipe features in the book I'm writing for Lorez Books - Brazilian Food and Cooking - I needed to make sure I have the proportions and methods just right.

Mini Acarajé recipe:

Makes around 30 mini acarajé

Ingredients:

  • 500g black-eye-peas
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 litres vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Dende (Palm Oil)

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cups canned chopped tomatos
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of small cooked shrimp
  • 1/2 cup of dried shrimp
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 green chillies (optional)

Method:

  1. In a large bowl soak the black-eye-peas overnight. Drain and add to a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to break the beans. Transfer them back into the bowl and cover with water. Using your hands, squeeze, grind and still the beans to release the skins. Let the skins float to the top and tip the bowl to pour some of the water with all the floating skins. Repeat until all skins are gone. Drain.
  2. Working in batches, pureé de beans and the 1/2 onion until you achieve a homogeneous paste similar in consistency to humous. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the onion and fry until translucent the add the garlic, the dried shrimp and the chilly (if using). Fry for another 2 0r 3 minutes. Then add the tomatos and season to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes .
  4. Heat the vegetable oil to 170c and add the palm oil.
  5. Using 2 spoons, scoop some of the bean pureé and make as big a quenelle as you can manage. Gently slide it into the oil. Let it fry for a couple of minutes on one side  then tun them over with a slotted spoon. Keep frying until they reach a deep golden brown colour. Drain them and sit on a plate lined with kitchen town to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve hot with the shrimp sauce, some hot pepper sauce and a few wedges of lime.

Check out how the locals make it:

Pão de Queijo - Brazilian cheesy doughballs

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