Feijoada De Marisco (Seafood Bean Stew)

It is easy to dismiss the country on the western flank of the Iberian Peninsula.  Ask someone where Portugal is, and they are likely to point to Puerto Rico.   Portugal is a small country and an afterthought in most people’s minds.  Friends ask me whether Portugal is a province of Spain.   I shake my head in disbelief and school them on geography and European history.  If it wasn’t for Portugal Columbus would never have “discovered” America since he studied at the Sagres Naval Academy well before he travelled on three small ships across the Atlantic.  We have contributed much to the world and it is important to point this out.  The same goes for our contribution to culinary history.  Portugal “discovered” almost three quarters of the known world and began the spice trade.  We brought cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, and turmeric to Europe.  Many of the world’s dishes and ways of preparing food has its origins in Portugal and Feijoada (bean stew) is one of them.  Cooking with beans was a Roman tradition.  Rome was successful because it built and established roads from which to supply their army.  Those roads eventually became land trade routes between cities.   One of the supplies they moved to the front of their military campaigns was dried beans.  Dried beans travel well and require minimal preparation.  Boil them in water, add some animal protein and salt and you have a well-fed soldier ready for battle.  Those dried beans if planted create more beans and the legume caught on everywhere in the Roman empire.  The Portuguese in the Minho province elevated this simple legume to new heights when they prepared it off cuts of meat such as pig’s feet, fat back, sausage, tripe, and beef trimmings.  The dish became popular all over the Portuguese empire in places like Macau, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Goa, India and Brazil.  Each of these locations added their own unique local take on the stew but the origin was Portuguese.  To this day feijoada is the national dish of Brazil.  The recipe also made its way throughout Europe and became classic continental dishes such as the French cassoulet, the Milanese cassoeula from Lombardy, Italy, the Romanian fasole cu cârnați, the fabada asturiana from Northwestern Spain, Spanish cocido madrileño, olla podrida, and the Polish tsholem and golonka. (Source: Wikipedia).  The recipe therefore lends itself well to adaptation because as its base is a refogado (sauté of onions, garlic, vegetables and tomato) followed by the addition of beans and a rich broth of meat or seafood.  Eventually the coastal regions of Portugal transformed the dish by removing almost all the meat, replacing it with seafood.   Feijoada de marisco can be made with just about any seafood that you have as long as it won’t fall apart while cooking.  In my recipe I use octopus, shrimp, clams and imitation lobster but you can add or omit any of those.

 

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