Something Inside of Us Sleeps, The Sleeper Must Awaken

What we should know about Brazilian food

“I dream a
lot about recipe development,” the 31-year-old chef admits. “It’s not about
particular dishes, but I’ll dream about combinations. I keep a notebook by my
bedside, because quite often I’ll wake up with an idea and I’ll need to write
it down, otherwise I’ll forget.”

Many of
these combinations will be found in Mezcla, Belfrage’s first solo cookbook (she
co-wrote Flavour in 2020 with mentor Yotam Ottolenghi).

friend came up with the title, and it immediately felt right. “It’s the perfect
word,” she says of ‘Mezcla’. “It means mix, blend or fusion [in Spanish], so
it’s the perfect word to describe the recipes, and also my background, and me.”

background and culinary influences are certainly eclectic.

Brazilian and Mexican flavours run through the book – along with other cuisines
from all over the world – and are part of Belfrage’s efforts to reclaim the
word ‘fusion’ in cooking. “I think people used to assume that when you say
something is fusion, it was confused and lacked in focus, and the flavours were
all over the place and didn’t make sense,” she muses.

“Maybe in
the early-2000s or the late-Nineties, that might have been the case with chefs
doing fusion cooking” – but she suggests that’s changed now.

“If you
really think about it, most dishes were fusion before they became classics. For
example, one of my favourite Brazilian dishes is moqueca [a seafood stew] –
it’s a classic Brazilian dish but it’s actually a mix of West African,
indigenous, Brazilian and Portuguese influences coming together. Even classic
dishes were once probably a fusion of other things. When you think about it
like that, it makes all the sense in the world.”

Italian, Mexican and Brazilian cuisines might not have lots in common, what
they do share, Belfrage indicates, is “big, bold flavours”. With plenty of
Italian and Mexican chains on the high street, many of us have a relatively
good grasp of the basics of each cuisine – but Brazilian might be a little bit
more unknown.

Like the
moqueca dish, Belfrage says: “Most Brazilian cuisine is a fusion of indigenous
Brazilian, West African and Portuguese influences, because during the time of
the slave trade it was colonised by Portugal, so they brought a lot of
influence.” Due to the slave trade’s links to Brazil, she adds: “There’s so
much African influence there, and so many incredible Brazilian dishes are full
of African soul and ingredients.

“One of my favourite
ingredients in the world is red palm oil, which is ubiquitous in Brazilian
cuisine. I’m sure a lot of Brazilians assume it’s a Brazilian ingredient, but
actually it’s from West Africa, and was brought over by the Portuguese.”

Why not try
some of her favourite recipes?

ragu recipe


(Serves 2
as a main with leftovers, or 4 as a starter)

40g dried

4tbsp olive
oil, plus extra to serve

3 cloves of
garlic, very finely chopped(not crushed!)

½tsp chilli
flakes (or less if you prefer)

10g fresh
parsley (stalks and leaves), finely chopped, plus extra to serve

⅓tsp fine

tomato puree/paste

About 50
twists of freshly ground black pepper

250g dried
tagliatelle nests

Parmesan, very finely grated, plus extra to serve

double cream


1. In a
medium bowl, cover the porcini with boiling water and leave to soak for 10
minutes. Drain, reserving 75ml of the soaking liquid. Very finely chop the
porcini to mince consistency, then set aside.

2. Put the
oil, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley and fine salt into a cold, large sauté pan
on a medium-low heat. Very gently fry for five minutes until soft and lightly
golden, turning the heat down if the garlic starts to brown.

3. Increase
the heat to medium-high, then add the chopped porcini, tomato puree/paste and
plenty of pepper. Stir-fry for three minutes, then set the pan aside while you
boil the pasta.

4. Cook the
pasta in salted boiling water for about six minutes, until al dente. Reserve 350ml of the pasta water, and drain.

5. Return
the sauté pan with the porcini to a medium-high heat, then add the 350ml of
pasta water and the reserved 75ml of porcini soaking liquid. Stir, and bring to
a simmer. Once simmering, leave to bubble away for three minutes. Add half the
Parmesan to the pan, stirring until it has melted before adding the rest. Lower
the heat to medium, then stir in the cream, followed by the drained
tagliatelle. Toss over the heat until the pasta and sauce have emulsified –
about one-and-a-half minutes.

6. Remove
from the heat and serve at once, finished with as much extra oil and Parmesan
as your heart desires.

with pineapple and ‘nduja recipe


(Serves 4)

4 skin-on,
bone-in chicken thighs, at room temperature

4 cloves of
garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife

1 medium
onion, halved and very thinly sliced on a mandolin

½ large,
extra-ripe pineapple, peeled (300g)

4 sweet
tangerines (or 2 oranges), squeezed to get 100g juice

chicken bone broth, stock or water

double cream

5g fresh

1 lime, cut
into wedges

For the
’Nduja and chipotle paste:

50g ’nduja

2tbsp olive

2tsp tomato

chipotle flakes


¾tsp fine

About 20
twists of freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat
the oven to 180°C fan/200°C.

2. Put all
the ingredients for the paste into a large bowl and mix together. Add the
chicken, garlic and three-quarters of the sliced onion and mix well so
everything is coated evenly. Tip the onions and garlic into a 28cm ovenproof
cast-iron skillet or similar-sized baking dish and spread out. Place the
chicken thighs on top, skin side up and spaced apart.

3. Cut the
pineapple into four rounds, then cut each round into quarters, removing the
hard core (you should have about 300g). Add the pineapple to the bowl with the
remnants of the paste, mix to coat with whatever’s left there, then arrange the
pineapple around the chicken.

4. Pour the
tangerine juice around the chicken (don’t get the skin wet), then bake for 20
minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the stock or water into the pan around
the chicken (again, don’t get the skin wet). Return to the oven for another
20–25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is browned
and crispy. If you have a blowtorch, use it to char the pineapple a little.

5. Drizzle
the cream into the sauce. Toss the coriander and the remaining sliced onions
together with a tiny bit of oil and salt and arrange on top. Serve from the
pan, with the lime wedges alongside.

yoghurt with roasted strawberries and peanut fudge sauce recipe


(Serves 4)

For the
roasted strawberries:

300g frozen
strawberries, defrosted (frozen strawberries will produce a redder syrup, but
you can use fresh strawberries – stalks removed and roughly chopped – just make
sure they’re extra ripe)

50g caster

½ lime

2 cinnamon
sticks, roughly broken

For the
whipped yoghurt:

mascarpone, fridge-cold

yoghurt, fridge-cold

vanilla bean paste

1tbsp maple

For the
peanut fudge sauce:

50g smooth
peanut butter (I use ManiLife)

cocoa powder

75g maple

1tsp soy
sauce (or tamari)



1. Preheat
the oven to 200°C fan/220°C.

2. For the
roasted strawberries, place all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish just big
enough to fit the strawberries in a single layer. They should be snug, but not
piled on top of each other. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway. Set aside to

3. Place
the mascarpone, yoghurt, vanilla paste and maple syrup in a large bowl and
whisk together until completely smooth. Keep the bowl in the fridge until ready
to serve.

4. For the
fudge sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth.
You may need to add more water or maple syrup, depending on the thickness of
your peanut butter. You’re looking for a smooth, thick but pourable

5. In
individual glasses, layer the chilled yoghurt with the warm strawberries and
the fudge sauce and serve.

Recipes To Excite by Ixta Belfrage is published by Ebury Press. Photography by
Yuki Sugiura. Available now.