Fejão and Feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew)

Feijoada – or black bean and pork stew – is Brazil’s national dish. In many regions of Brazil, adults, children and babies eat the simpler vegetarian version of this dish, feijão, with rice on a daily basis. Black beans (or turtle beans) were also the staple food of Afro-Brazilian slaves. With the addition of pork to the stew, the feijão become feijoada, which is often served to guests on special occasions.

My daughter is a very picky eater but she loves black bean stew with rice, and feijão is one of my weekly staples. Black beans are a superfood packed with protein, antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium and fiber. On weekends, I often make a pot of vegetarian feijão or I add a bit of bacon and/or sausage for a “feijoada”, and freeze portions for the busy work week.

I go light on the pork in this version, but a small amount of bacon or sausage goes a long way by boosting the depth of flavour and adding a subtle smokiness. Or leave out the bacon or sausage entirely for a more cleansing vegetarian feijão and use some vegetable broth to enhance flavour.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1-2 diced medium onions
  • 3-4 minced garlic cloves
  • 3-4 cups dry black beans (you don’t have to soak them overnight in the fridge, but it will speed up cooking)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 a teaspoon turmeric
  • Water and/or vegetable/chicken broth (enough to generously cover the beans in the pot)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A quarter to half a package of fried bacon or 2-3 fried and diced sausages (optional)

If you are using meat (completely optional), fry bacon or sausage until cooked. Set aside.

Fry onions and garlic in vegetable oil (or bacon fat) for a few minutes. Throw in all other ingredients. Cover and add water as needed. Bring to a boil and simmer on low-medium for 1-2.5 hours or until black beans are tender and a thick gravy has formed. When beans are cooked, simmer without the lid for 30 minutes to thicken the gravy.

Serve with rice, a few orange slices, and sautéed kale/chard with minced garlic or a salad. I sometimes even add a fried egg on top and sprinkle Tabasco sauce to finish.

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