What I’ve chosen to cook is a dish that wasn’t named. All I had to go on was the description: “Grilled octopus with arrabiata sauce, capers and Brazilian peppers. The deli counter at the local butchers’ shop usually has cooked octopus, but unfortunately they didn’t have any today, so I was left to choose something from the mini-supermarket. I came out with a couple of cans of pilchards in tomato sauce. After nearly getting covered in fishy tomato sauce while trying to open the can I was able to get started, so this is what I used and what I cooked;
The recipes are based on the quantities I cooked, which will feed two people quite comfortably. I had half for tea and will have the rest for lunch tomorrow.
155g tin of pilchards in tomato sauce
4 baby sweet peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
1 onion, skinned and finely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped
A few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped
For the Sauce
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, mixed with a large pinch of salt and crushed in a pestle and mortar
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of demarara sugar
1. First, make the sauce. Blitz the tomatoes and garlic together in a food processor, then add it to a saucepan with the cayenne pepper.
2. Bring the sauce to the boil, stirring continuously, then add the vinegar and sugar.
3. Once the sauce is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the fish. Drain and rinse the pilchards, then halve them lengthways, remove the bones and cut the fillets into bite sized pieces. Set aside when done.
5. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and add the onions and peppers. Reduce the heat and cook them until they are soft and just starting to caramelise.
6. When the onions and peppers are done, mix them together with the fish and stir in the capers, coriander and the sauce (you may not need all the sauce).
I kept a small amount of the chopped onion on one side and fried it up with a rasher of unsmoked bacon, a small amount of chopped coriander, a pinch of black pepper and a generous shake of breadcrumbs, to represent a forafa-type side dish. Authentic forafa is made with toasted manioc flour but I haven’t been able to source any of that other than on line. I also fried up some plantain and had this on the side too.
I can say that the dish was an absolute triumph. Tangy, sweet, hot and flavoursome, with the seasoned breadcrumbs providing a great balance of textures alongside the fish and plantain.
For dessert I had Brigadeiros: Gooey, chewey and utterly moreish. I actually started them earlier in the day as they need time to set. First, I prepared a mixture of 3 tablespoons of very finely chopped pecans and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder. I then heated up 400g condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of butter and just less than half of the pecan/cocoa mixture in a saucepan. I heated this up until it started to boil and thicken. Then I removed it from the heat and poured it into a shallow dish and left it in the refrigerator to set. I left it for about three hours. Once set I divided the mixture up into about 12 pieces and rolled them into balls and coated them in the remaining chocolate/pecan mixture. I returned them to the fridge to re-set but I couldn’t wait too long before sampling one or two. The most difficult part of this recipe of course was of course to stop myself eating the whole lot. I've been good so far...
Musical accompaniment came courtesy of this rather fine mix of Brazilian tunes: Tropicalia
So there we go. A great night in.”