The ultimate comfort food, and perfect for a British winter; the feijoada is a hearty stew of pork, jerk beef, black beans, heaps of garlic and other things that bubbles for hours on low heat. Every cook includes their own twist, but the one my mum makes is a winner, with orange zest and a shot of cachaça. It’s a dish you prepare in large quantities, for a huge gathering, be it with family, friends or strangers. I met one of my best friend's at a feijoada held at a warehouse in Rio, where I was passing by one Saturday afternoon and, seeing a group performing samba, decided to walk in. I didn’t know anyone there, but I danced all afternoon and evening, drank vast amounts of caipirinha, ate like a pig and ended up in another party. There is nothing more carioca than meeting your BFF at a feijoada!
It's one of Latin America’s most-loved deserts – a sponge cake made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk. I was recently working at my restaurant when I looked up to find the comedian Romish Ranganathan ordering a Burrito. I’m a big fan so I expressed this by giving him my favourite desert of all time. A couple of months later the BBC called me telling me Romish was a vegan, but had found me so friendly he couldn’t bring himself to reject my cake. He had asked them to ring me to come on his programme “Would I lie.’ So I went on the programme and had a blast, thinking this is all down to the good vibes produced by the Tres Leches.
This is my favourite dish. Like much of Argentine cuisine, the concept is simple: quality beef – in this case short ribs - and fire. It’s from an age of hungry gauchos with their facón (knife), cows roaming the Pampas and little else. This cut from the meatier part of the cow's ribs is not the leanest meat but it’s dripping with flavor, and from a young age I was always told of the necessity of a good glass of wine to aid digestion. Other required tools: a sharp knife and clean fingers so that the bones from the tira can be picked up and properly savoured. From all life's many pleasures nothing really compares to carving a slowly cooked tira plucked straight from an asado, before the satisfyingly savage delight of sucking on the bones (chupando los huesitos) like a true gaucho. If possible a tira is best enjoyed with good friends, a medicinal bottle of wine and all the time in the world.
Causa is a Peruvian classic style of dish meaning ‘the cause’. It originates from the wives of Peruvian soldiers who made a wonderful salad style dish from cold potatoes and various fillings including seafood and avocado. This is featured in our Ceviche cookbook and was served at Ceviche Soho. Named after the patron saint of Lima, this vegetarian causa is one of our customer’s favourites and the one I get the most emails about. Our addition of beetroot, carrot and avocado makes a fun, psychedelic combination. They can be assembled in all kinds of moulds and you can vary the fillings as you like. It’s a perfect vegetarian starter or light meal.
Ben’s Moqueca There’s nothing quite like a bowl of freshly made moqueca, a deliciously fragrant Brazilian fish stew. Traditionally from Espirito Santo in the south, I prefer the Bahian variant. If I’m making it I usually use king prawns but it’s great with monkfish or red snapper as well. Whenever I’m in Brazil I always head to Bahia for my moqueca fix!
Colombians love pork, and this stuffed pork, presented with a whole head attached, is the ultimate party feature served for Christmas, birthdays and any special occasion. It’s filled with pigeon peas and cooked rice (deliciously yellow from Annatto spice) then baked under a crispy skin. My favourite way is to cook the pork belly in sous vide, which makes the meat very tender and extra juicy. The yummy crackling tops it and I also like to add a British touch - apple sauce - as well as my own homemade gravy. I often do this for Quinceañera parties – girls´ fifteenth birthday celebrations, which are still very popular within the UK Colombian community.
When I was a child, we used to go every Sunday to visit my grandma, together with all my uncles, aunties and cousins. There were lots of dishes but my grandma would always make enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas) for me only! All my cousins were so jealous as I was her favourite (and still am!). Enchiladas verdes are very easy to make if you have the right ingredients, time and passion! You only need corn tortillas, green tomatillos, chicken breast, white cream, queso fresco and onions.
Empanadas are the most traditional of Latin American dishes, with their origen in the north of Spain, introduced the by moors during the their ocupation. Today you can find empanadas on any Latin American high street, as one of our favourite street snacks. There are lots of types of empandas, as regional produce makes its way to the filling, which can be beef, chicken, pork, fish or vegetables. The Empanada dough is generally made with flour, and can be both baked or fried, but in countries like Colombia and Ecuador, empanadas are made with cooked corn or cornmeal. In the Caribbean the dough is made with a black beans puree. Empanadas are best served hot and often accompanied with a spicy salsa.
The Spanish Omelette is one of Spain’s most traditional and treasured dishes. At El Pirata, head chef Rosendo Simbana has mastered the art of this classic Spanish dish, made with white onion, potatoes and eggs.
From one of London's oldest and finest Spanish restaurants, El PIrata's head chef Rosendo Simbana, divulges the secrets of his signature dish