Monday, 9 January 2012

Lush Food #2

A Rare Treat

As those who know me will already be well aware, my favourite food of all-time is without question curry. Whilst keen on most varieties found on Indian restaurant menus, I tend to stick to hot chicken-based ones such as the Vindaloo and usually have several a week, whether home-made or preferably from a takeaway. For me to go longer than this without a curry is almost unheard of and one of the only times I do is when.... I'm on a long holiday!

The mother-in-law's fine pastels garnished with chillies!
As some of you may know, I'm currently into the fourth and final week of a trip to a far-off land (Brazil) where curries are unknown and, accordingly, times like this can be a source of great difficulty for me. However, where on the one hand the lack of many of my favourites are causing me to endure withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand I can look forward to special treats that cannot be found in the UK but which are commonplace here. Chief among these are the delightful 'pastels' I discovered on my very first trip to the country in Rio de Janeiro. Contrary to popular belief, these are not merely delicately coloured crayons but are also a mighty lush foodstuff that originated in Portugal. Subsequent research reveals that several other mostly Hispanic countries have foods that share the same name but it's definitely the Brasilian variety that appeals to me.

And the auntie's, with some uncooked on the right...
They are a fairly simple savoury fast-food often found on the menus of cafes and restaurants but their popularity here, particularly in Rio and Sao Paulo as far as I can tell, means that there's even dedicated 'pastelarias' which pretty much only sell them. But wait... what are they? Well, in typical fast-food style they're not very healthy for one thing! They're usually square or semi-circle shaped and made of a crispy, bubbly, deep-fried pastry filled with a variety of tasty ingredients! These can of course include boring things like vegetables or disgusting cheese but the best ones contain various meats. My favourites predictably feature chicken with a good few dashings of 'pimenta' (spicy sauce similar to Tabasco) which is a permanent fixture at most Brasilian dinner tables.

Although my last few trips to Brasil have taken in what has become my favourite pastelaria in Sao Paulo, this trip has seen both my mother-in-law and my auntie-in-law make special pastels just for me! The resulting feasts have been of monumental proportions and also included masses of pimenta, and it got me thinking... given how simple and lush these things are, combined with their rarity in north-western Europe, maybe I should open my own pastelaria in England! Hmmm, unless I ended up giving everyone food-poisoning. I'm just getting over a non-pastel-related bout of that myself so I know it's not the most enjoyable affliction! Well, whatever else happens, one thing's for sure - even if I do have to wait another two years for some pastels, it'll be worth the wait!