When I set out to find a cooking class in the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro, my curiosity led me to a menu that seemed to offer a number of dishes I was not familiar with. The promise of an introduction to a world of flavours I was yet to explore, drew me into booking a class with Cook in Rio.
The class took place in a charming restaurant in the heart of the city. The restaurant was owned by our lovely host, Chef Simone, and her husband. Chef Simone, was to be the guide through this culinary adventure. I was 15 minutes early, and to my delight, everything had already been meticulously set up. Tables were adorned with an array of fruit and vegetables, another with the necessary crockery for the evening and on another, an assortment of cooking utensils. In total there were five of us curious foodies, ready for a Brazillian cooking adventure for the evening.
Chef Simone, was a true gem. She learnt everyone’s names and cracked jokes with us as she got to know us a little better, through the course of the evening. Her warm and bubbly personality put us all at ease. She shared anecdotes about the significance of food in Brazilian culture. As Bossa Nova music played in the background, the mesmerising fusion of samba and jazz music, Chef Simone and some of the students could not resist swaying to the rhythm of the beat between tasks. It was a true reminder of the ubiquitous presence of dance in Brazilian culture. Some of the famous dances include samba, carimbo and capoeira, amongst others.
Our culinary journey began with a welcome toast, as we crafted our own Passion Fruit Caipirinhas. Surprisingly simple to make, these cocktails combined crushed ice, sugar, passion fruit, freshly squeezed lime juice and cachaça. This drink was a delightful start to our adventure and we had a chance to prepare a few more of these as the night progressed, ensuring our spirits remained high (pun intended).
As it was a few weeks before Carnival, Chef Simone informed us that many acts in the parade were currently deep into their rehearsals. She encouraged us to go and watch these vibrant practice sessions in different locations across the city. Carnival, she explained, was not just a celebration of Brazilian diversity, but also a homage to the rich cultural heritages of all Brazillians, originating from different parts of the world.
Our culinary voyage continued with the preparation of starters: grilled cheese topped with a guava paste, chilli and lime alongside Brazilian calabresa sausages flambeed with alcohol and dressed in a delectable sauce featuring red onion and fresh lime juice. Chef Simone revealed that while the dishes are enjoyed as starters, they also make popular bar snacks, when paired with with drinks. We took it in turns to preparing different parts of the dish. Flambeing the sausages was the most exciting element, albeit with a dash of caution given the lively flames. As most of us had saved our appetites for the class, by the time the starters were ready, we could not wait to dig in and enjoyed the starters just before preparing another caipirinha each.
With our appetites whetted, we then continued to crafting the main course: Fish Moqueca, a beloved Brazillian fish stew bursting with flavours from peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime and coriander. It was paired with a fascinating dish called banana farofa which was made of caramelised onions, tapioca flour, salt and sliced banana. Chef Simone explained that recipes for these traditional dishes may vary slightly due to individual/family preferences.
Chef Simone expressed the diversity of Brazilian food, which is not only influenced by regional ingredients, but also by the varied cultural backgrounds of its people. Brazilian cuisine truly reflects the fusion of culinary traditions from around the globe. This rang true, based on the food tour I had previously gone on and delving into a book that emphasised the immense variety awaiting those who explore Brazilian gastronomy.
As the evening drew to a close, we indulged in our final creation: brigadeiros, a simple yet irresistibly delicious dessert crafted from butter, condensed milk, cocoa, and topped with chocolate sprinkles.
The menu for the night encompassed a delightful array of culinary experiences:
Drink: Passion Fruit Caipirinhas, Original Caipirinhas
-Brazilian Calabresa Sausage
-Grilled Cheese topped with guava paste, chilli and lime
In reflection, I rate this cooking class a solid 7/10. Chef Simone was an exceptional teacher who brought the class to life with her engaging anecdotes, humor, and insights into Brazilian culture. While I, as a hands-on learner, would have wished for more involvement in preparing the dishes, we each received a book with all the recipes, allowing us to recreate the magic in our own kitchens.
Brazilian cooking is really an exploration of flavours that goes way further than Brazilian BBQ and I would wholeheartedly recommend taking this culinary journey and share with me your favourite creations. Have you ever ventured into Brazilian cooking at home? Comment below to share what you made or want to make.