My grandparents from my father’s side are from Bahia, on the Northeast of Brazil. Their peculiar recipe of beef casserole (carne de panela) is a statement of the region flavours’. It has cumin, bay leaves, lime. On top, coriander, a local must-have in every single dish.
I recall when I was in my early 20s and I would come home from a night out. Obviously, I would wake up late. Instead of having a traditional breakfast, eggs, toast, or something similar, waiting for me, my Grandpa would come into my room with a little bowl full with this juicy meat in its sauce and a scoop of ‘farinha’, cassava flour. The best hangover cure, trust me.
Cassava flour is part of Brazil’s staple food and it is used in many different ways, sometimes fried with onions, garlic, olives, eggs, and many other ingredients. Sometimes it is a complement for the full meal, a side by itself. Cassava flour gives a crunchy texture to the most typical combination on a Brazilian plate: rice and beans.
People from Bahia take the cassava flour on daily meal to the extreme, blending it in even when it is not so much part of the traditional meals. My uncle from Bahia does an unusual mixture: he adds cassava flour on his plate to his sumptuous shrimp with tomato and coconut milk stew. I have to say, tastes incredible!
Going back to this beef casserole, there is a difference between when my Grandma is leading the cooking and when is my Grandpa commanding the preparation. She loves cumin, and adds it to almost everything. And I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. He is not so fond of it. So when she is responsible for the ‘carne de panela’, he always ends up complaining.
Her prompt answer is also the same. She tell hims off quite gently and in a funny way. She tells him to shush because cumin is good for the health. Ha!
Grandma’s and grandpa’s Bahia beef casserole (Carne de Panela)
1 kg whole piece of beef chuck roll
1 tin tomatoes
1 chopped onion
8 cloves of garlic (or as you wish. There is never enough garlic!)
2-3 fine chopped carrots (optional)
Coriander (sprinkled in the end, optional. I didn’t have it on that day)
Salt and Pepper
Marinate the beef for a day or a night with a mix of squeezed lime, 6 garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and bay leaves.
Heat a deep pan with olive oil. Fry the rest of the garlic with the onions. When its clear, soft and without water, add the meat. Seal it until becomes brown all sides. Add a bit of water to the juice left in the container that you marinated the beef and pour it in the pan. Add the carrots and let it cook a little. Add the tin tomatoes. Let it cook on high heat for a little, then reduce the heat. Cook until tender or shredding easily with a fork. It will take around 1 hour, 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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