Brazilian food and cocktail recipes

“Bolinhos are a mainstay of Brazil’s bar scene. They’re little balls of rice that are lightly fried for a golden crunch, which gives way to a soft, almost creamy interior. We’ve incorporated the cooking of the rice into the recipe, but leftover rice can also be used. If it’s quite dry you might need to add an extra egg to help it to stick together.”

Makes 20-25

150g long-grain rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
70g parmesan, grated, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp baking powder
80g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Vegetable or groundnut oil, for deep-frying
Lime wedges, to serve (optional)

First, cook the rice. Put it in a pan with 400ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, part-covered, for about 10 min, until most of the water has been absorbed. Remove, cover and leave to steam for another few minutes. It will be slightly overcooked and sticky, and you should be able to shape it easily. Set it aside to cool completely.

2 Add the egg, spring onions, parmesan, salt, baking powder, half the flour and the chopped parsley (reserving 1 tbsp) to the rice. Mix well and check the consistency: it should be stiff enough to shape into balls. If it’s too sticky, gradually add more flour until you get the right consistency. With well-floured hands, roll into walnut-sized balls, about 30g each.

3 Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 180C (it should sizzle when a little rice mixture is added to it). Fry in batches for 2-3 min, until golden-brown all over, then drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm while you fry the remaining batches. To serve, transfer to warmed bowls and sprinkle with grated parmesan and the remaining parsley, with lime wedges alongside.


Chilli and cumin marinated lamb
“Beef is generally preferred over lamb in Brazil, but chilli and cumin lamb has been one of the most popular dishes we’ve served at Cabana. We use lamb fillet because we think it’s the most tender cut, but you could use diced leg or rump if you prefer. The palm hearts bring out the earthiness of the lamb.”

Serves 4

600g lamb fillet
6 tbsp chilli and cumin marinade (see below)
400g tinned palm hearts, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Trim off any tough outer membranes from the lamb, then cut each fillet into evenly sized cubes, about 4cm each. Place in a bowl and toss with 4 tbsp of the chilli and cumin marinade. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

2 Light the barbecue and let the flames die down before starting to cook. If cooking indoors, preheat the grill to medium and place the grill rack at the highest level. Cut each palm heart in half, then thread them on to metal skewers, alternating with the marinated lamb pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cook for 8-10 min, turning the skewers a few times until evenly browned. The lamb is best cooked medium rare, and it should feel slightly springy when pressed. Remove the skewers and brush with the remaining marinade. Rest for 5-10 min before serving.

Chilli and cumin marinade
Makes about 175ml

70g red chillies (preferably malagueta), deseeded and roughly chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp mirin (Japanese sweetened rice wine)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1 heaped tsp toasted cumin seeds
½ tsp dried oregano
60ml light olive or sunflower oil

Put all the ingredients in a small food processor and blend to a smooth, wet paste suitable for coating meats and fish. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week in a clean, sealed jar.


Malagueta jumbo prawns
“Prawns and barbecues are a match made in heaven: the tasty crustaceans are easy to grill, taste great with a slight char, and make an interesting alternative to the usual bacon and bangers. Try them with spicy malagueta marinade for an added kick.”

Serves 4

12 large tiger prawns or 20 ordinary prawns
4 tbsp spicy malagueta marinade (see below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lime wedges, to serve

Peel and de-vein the prawns, but leave the tail ends on. Place them in a bowl and add 3 tbsp spicy malagueta marinade. Toss to coat, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

2 Light the barbecue and let the flames die down before starting to cook. If cooking indoors, preheat the grill to high and place the grill rack at the highest level. Thread the prawns on to 4 metal skewers, then brush with the remaining marinade and season with salt and pepper. Barbecue or grill for about 2-3 min on each side until they have turned opaque and are just cooked through. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Spicy malagueta marinade
“This is Cabana’s signature marinade and is used in our spicy malagueta chicken and jumbo prawns. The seeds are usually left in the chillies for heat, but you could remove them if you prefer a milder flavour.”

Makes about 275ml

70g small red chillies (preferably malagueta)
5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
70ml light olive or sunflower oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2½ tsp tomato purée
2½ tsp caster sugar
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 heaped tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp sea salt
A pinch of dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Split the chillies lengthways and place them in a small roasting tray with the garlic and olive oil. Roast for 10 min. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then put the chillies, garlic and oil into a small food processor or blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Blend to a smooth purée. Transfer to a clean jar, seal, and keep refrigerated for up to a week.


Grilled crab shells

“In Brazil, you’ll find the classic bar snack of grilled crab (casquinha de siri) served in scallop or crab shells — real or plastic — but you can just as easily use a ramekin, and any fresh white crab meat can be used for our recipe. It’s best finished with a squeeze of lime to cut through the melted cheese and bring out the flavour of the crab. Serve with a side salad and an ice-cold beer as a summery starter.”

Serves 4 as a starter

300-400g fresh white crab meat (from an 800g-1.2kg cooked brown crab)
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
2 tbsp coconut milk mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 shallot, finely chopped
Half a yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
Half a green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 large plum tomato, deseeded and finely chopped
60ml white wine
15g desiccated coconut (or use freshly grated if available)
1 tsp english mustard
Juice of 1 lime, plus extra wedges to serve
A small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g dried breadcrumbs
25g grated parmesan
20g cold butter

Pick through the crab meat to remove any shell, then cover and refrigerate. Tear the bread into small pieces and soak in the coconut milk for 15 min.

2 Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot, peppers, garlic, chilli and tomato and cook for 6-8 min, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the soaked bread and desiccated coconut and cook for another 1-2 min. Remove from the heat and stir in the crab meat, mustard, lime juice and coriander and season with salt and pepper. If it’s too dry, add a little more coconut milk. Spoon into 4 lightly oiled ramekins or clean scallop shells.

3 Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan and sprinkle them over the crab mixture. Cut the butter into very thin slices and place over the breadcrumbs. Bake for 10-12 min, until lightly golden-brown. (If the topping isn’t browning enough, put it under the grill for 2-4 min). Serve hot with wedges of lime.


Spicy malagueta chicken
“We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to create a dish using the malagueta chilli, a fiery Brazilian chilli similar to the Portuguese piri piri. Malagueta chillies are ubiquitous in Brazil and you’ll find a bottle of them preserved in oil, vinegar or cachaça on every table top. After months of testing, we think we’ve got the right balance of sticky sweetness and chilli spice for the perfect marinade. The red peppers add extra sweetness and crunch. Leftover chicken can be used to spice up a salad.”

Serves 4

500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 tbsp spicy malagueta marinade (see recipe)
1 large red pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the honey mustard glaze
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard

Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Place them in a bowl, add the spicy malagueta marinade and toss to coat evenly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge. Let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

2 Light the barbecue and let the flames die down before starting to cook. If cooking indoors, preheat the grill to medium. Deseed the pepper and cut it into 2-3cm-thick strips. Thread the pepper and chicken thighs alternately on to 4 or 5 metal skewers. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 10-15 min, turning occasionally.

3 Stir all the ingredients for the honey mustard glaze together in a small bowl. Brush over the chicken and return to the heat for a few more minutes until golden-brown and just cooked through. The chicken thighs should feel firm when ready.

4 Remove the skewers and leave to rest for a few minutes, then serve hot. They’re great with sweet potato fries.


Avocado ice cream
“Avocado is eaten as a fruit in Brazil, so don’t be surprised if you see it popping up on dessert menus. It’s popular in mousse, but we like it best in ice cream because its richness results in a wonderfully smooth texture. It might sound odd at first, but do give this a go — it’s truly delicious.”

Serves 10-12

250g caster sugar
The zest and juice of 2 lemons
The zest and juice of 2 limes
200ml double cream
600ml whole milk
4 large ripe avocados
A pinch of fine sea salt

Put the sugar and lemon and lime zest and juice into a heavy-based saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has melted, add the cream and stir well. Gradually bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove the pan from the heat and pour in the milk. Halve the avocados, then remove the stones, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor or blender. Pour in the milk and cream mixture and blitz until smooth, scraping the sides to make sure there are no chunks of avocado left.

2 Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice-cream maker and churn until almost set (or according to the manufacturer’s instructions). Transfer to a clean plastic container and freeze for at least a few hours until firm. (If you do not have an ice-cream maker, freeze the mixture in a shallow plastic container. Take it out after a couple of hours and whisk it by hand or with an electric whisk. Repeat the process twice, then return the ice cream to the freezer for a final freeze.)

Varieties on the classic caipirinhaMARTIN POOLE

Mix a perfect caipirinha (the Copacabana way)
by Richard Godwin

Confession. Even as an enthusiastic consumer of spirits that no one else will touch, I took a while to see the point of cachaça, the Brazilian national hooch (ka-sha-sa, by the way, mind the cedilla). I considered it second only to the horrendous Chinese rice spirit, baijiu — a sort of low-grade tractor fuel, back-of-the-cabinet stuff that’s liable to seep out of your pores the morning after.

In recent years, though, I’ve come round to cachaça. Essentially it’s Brazilian rum, distilled from fresh sugar-cane juice as opposed to molasses (similar to rhum agricole from the French-speaking Caribbean), which gives it a certain vegetal funk. Brazilians claim that it predates the Caribbean variety of rum. Traditionally it’s mixed with lime and sugar in the ubiquitous caipirinha or with tropical fruit and condensed milk in a batida, both of which are helpful in masking the slightly kerosene-like qualities of the common brands, such as Ypióca and 51.

Nonetheless, just as tequila was once regarded as fit only for shots and is now imbibed by George Clooney, cachaça is upping its game. Distilleries are experimenting with ageing and charcoal filtering, and producing cachaças that you might actually enjoy neat. Velho Barreiro is decent, but it’s worth looking out for Leblon — which has the finesse of a good rhum agricole — and the organic Abelha, which has a rich, honey-like quality that marries wonderfully with tropical fruits.

As for cocktails, the caipirinha (kye-pee-reen-ya) remains the weapon of choice and it’s pretty adaptable too — try lobbing in some fresh passion fruit pulp or a few mint leaves . The key to deliciousness is to pound the limes so you get the bitter oils from the peel as well as the juice, and to use large cubed ice as opposed to the crushed stuff. And my own tip: a spoonful of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, loosened with a little hot water, makes a much more flavourful alternative to regular sugar. Careful though. They slip down a bit too easily.

Caipirinha — four ways
“The caipirinha, which means ‘little country girl’ in Portuguese, is Brazil’s national cocktail. There are many stories about how it was invented, but this is our favourite. In the olden days, people would press a cloth moistened with alcohol to their heads to reduce a fever and suck a lime to improve their immunity. One day, a feverish man found the alcohol on his forehead dripping into his mouth as he sucked a lime, and since it was bitter he ate a spoonful of sugar. He got better, and the caipirinha was born. You can use ordinary white or granulated sugar, but we like the slightly caramelised flavour of golden caster sugar. There are as many variations of fruit caipirinhas as there are fruit, but these are three of our favourites. Try experimenting to see what creations you can concoct.”

Serves 1

1½ limes, skin on, cut into rough cubes
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
65ml cachaça
A handful of cracked ice

Put the limes and sugar into a sturdy glass tumbler. Muddle them with a cocktail muddler or the end of a small rolling pin to extract the juice from the limes and dissolve the sugar. Add the cachaça and cracked ice and give it a stir. Finally, top the glass with more cracked ice and add a wooden lollipop stick for stirring. Serve immediately.

• Strawberry and lime caipirinha: Add 3–4 strawberries to the limes before muddling, then proceed as above.

• Pineapple and mint caipirinha: Replace the limes with 2 shredded mint leaves and 5 cubes of ripe pineapple, then proceed as above. Garnish with extra mint.

• Passion fruit caipirinha: Replace the limes with the pulp of a passion fruit. Proceed as above and garnish with half a passion fruit.


Strawberry batida
“The batida is another classic Brazilian cocktail. It literally means ‘shaken’, and it’s a bit like an alcoholic milkshake: lighter than a caipirinha and thickened with coconut milk. You can make it in advance and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.”

Serves 2

130ml cachaça
100g hulled strawberries, plus extra to garnish
50ml coconut cream
Juice of 1 lime
4 tsp caster sugar
A handful of ice cubes

Place 2 glasses in the freezer to chill. Put all the ingredients (except the strawberries to garnish) in a blender with a handful of ice cubes. Blend at medium speed until smooth, then pour into the chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a fresh strawberry and serve immediately.


Brasilito: a Rio mojito
“The brasilito is an adaptation of the el draque (the dragon), an ancestor of the mojito we know today. Legend has it that the el draque was invented at sea by Richard Drake, in honour of his captain Sir Francis Drake, who was nicknamed El Draque by the Spanish and Portuguese of his crew. Our version uses brown sugar and aged cachaça to give a richer flavour, but you can replace these with white sugar and unaged cachaça if they are easier to find.”

Serves 1

1½ limes, cut into rough cubes
2 tsp brown sugar
A small handful of mint leaves
A handful of cracked ice
35ml gold cachaça
25ml gomme or simple syrup*

Put the limes and sugar in a tall glass. Muddle them with a cocktail muddler or the end of a small rolling pin to extract the juice from the limes and dissolve the sugar. Add the mint leaves and gently muddle with the back of a spoon. Fill two thirds of the glass with cracked ice, then add the remaining ingredients and vigorously mix with a spoon. Top with cracked ice and garnish with an extra sprig of mint.

* Gomme syrup is a sweetener that is often used in bars and restaurants to make alcoholic cocktails because it gives drinks a silky texture. At home it can easily be substituted with a simple sugar syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water warmed over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Recipes taken from Carnival! by David Ponte, Lizzy Barber and Jamie Barber, published by Quadrille, £10