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A taste of Rio

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Serve up some champion dinners – Rio style. Carnival! co-author Lizzy Barber tells Gemma Dunn the secrets to authentic Brazilian party fare

With all eyes on the Rio this summer, as the 2016 Olympics limber up, it’s little wonder there’s such an appetite for all things Brazilian right now.

And if you’re in the mood to jazz up dinnertimes in celebration of the Games, look no further than Carnival! – the first ‘definitive guide to throwing an authentic Brasilian street party’ – where you’ll find all the right ingredients to dish up some Rio-ready fare.

Jamie Barber.
Jamie Barber.

“Not only will it give you a feel of what Team GB are eating on the ground, but the tastes and flavours will whisk you away and have you dreaming of Brazilian beach and street parties,” promises co-author Lizzy Barber, who penned the title with her brother Jamie Barber and Rio-born David Ponte.

The colourful little book covers everything from vibrant, Brazilian finger food and BBQ recipes, to refreshing cocktails – Caipirinha being the tipple of choice – and even features tips on dancing the Samba.

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And Lizzy and her co-writers certainly know a thing or two about local customs, doubling up as the restaurateur team behind the popular and ever-expanding UK chain of Cabana Brasilian Barbecue restaurants.

“No Brazilian party would be complete without some Samba tunes,” she says. “You’ll see Brazilians breaking out these moves, impromptu, whenever the mood takes them.

“Cachaca [Brazil’s national, rum-like spirit] is vital for recreating the Rio vibes,” she adds. “Brazilians add it to anything – rumour has it some even run their cars on it – and it’s equally good in a cocktail or a marinade.”

But the most vital ingredient of all?

“It’s got to be meat!” Lizzy quips. “Brazilians are famous for their steaks, especially Picanha (cap of rump), which is their favourite cut. We marinate ours in chilli and cumin, or for the ultimate Cabana flavour, marinate chicken in our signature Spicy Malagueta sauce.

David Ponte.
David Ponte.

“So whether you’re planning a barbecue in the garden or are rained in watching all the Olympic action on TV,” she finishes, “you can make like a Carioca – that’s a Rio local – and imagine you’re on Copacabana Beach.”

Certainly sounds tempting. Here are three Carnival! recipes to get you in the spirit…


(Serves 4)

1 medium chicken (about 1.5-1.8kg)

Olive oil, for drizzling

5 sage leaves, finely chopped

2tbsp cachaca

1tbsp soft brown sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Half a lime (use the juice for the marinade)

For the steam marinade:

Juice of 2 large limes

2tbsp soft brown sugar

3tbsp cachaca

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

1/2tsp sea salt

2tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

5-6 large sage leaves, finely chopped

Light the barbecue (preferably one with a lid), and let the flames die down before starting to cook, or preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6 (if using charcoal, put most of the hot coals around the edges so there is indirect but even heat in the middle. If using a gas barbecue, set it to medium).

Remove and discard the giblets and any excess fat in the cavity of the chicken. Rub it with a little olive oil, then rub it inside and outside with salt, pepper and chopped sage. Put all the ingredients for the steam marinade in a jug and stir to dissolve the sugar. Take an empty can and peel off any labels. Wash it out well, then pour in the marinade ingredients. Wrap the outside of a small heavy-based roasting tin with kitchen foil, then place the can in the middle.

Sit the chicken on the can so that the top of it enters the cavity and the bird is upright. Spread out the legs to support the bird’s weight. Take a squeezed lime half and pop it into the neck of the chicken to make a plug, or cover the neck cavity with foil to prevent the steam escaping while it cooks.

Roast for 45-55 minutes, until the chicken is almost cooked. Mix the remaining cachaca and sugar and brush it over the chicken. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until golden and the juices run clear. Remove and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Carefully transfer to a serving plate, carve and serve it drizzled with the marinade, which will have reduced to a thick and tasty sauce.


(Serves 4)

FOOD Rio 093680

12 large tiger prawns or 20 ordinary prawns

4tbsp Spicy Malagueta Marinade (see recipe below)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lime wedges, to serve

Peel and devein the prawns, but leave the tail ends on. Place them in a bowl and add three tablespoons of Spicy Malagueta Marinade. Toss to coat, cover with cling-film and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Light the barbecue and let the flames die down before starting to cook. If cooking indoors, preheat the grill to high and place the grill rack at the highest level.

Thread the prawns on to four metal skewers, then brush with the remaining marinade and season with salt and pepper. Barbecue or grill for two to three minutes on each side, until they have turned opaque and are just cooked through. Serve with lime wedges on the side. They’re delicious with Biro Biro or coconut rice and a side salad.


(Makes approx 275ml)

70g small red chillies (preferably malagueta)

5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

70ml light olive or sunflower oil

2tbsp lemon juice

2 1/2tsp tomato puree

2 1/2tsp caster sugar

1/2tsp dried chilli flakes

1tbsp (heaped) sweet paprika

2tsp sea salt

Pinch of dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Split the chillies lengthways and place them in a small roasting tray with the garlic and oil. Roast for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then put the chillies, garlic and oil in a small food processor or blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Blend to a smooth puree. Transfer to a clean jar, seal and keep refrigerated for up to a week.


(Serves 4)

FOOD Rio 101651

400g seasonal greens (such as mustard greens, Swiss chard, sweetheart cabbage, spinach or young kale)

2tbsp olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Butter, for cooking

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the greens well, then remove any tough stalks and chop or shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the garlic and let it gently infuse with the oil for a few minutes, without allowing it to burn. When you begin to smell the aroma of the garlic, and before it begins to colour, add the greens a handful at a time, stirring well each time. Season with salt and pepper and add a tiny splash of water. Stir well and cover with a lid. Cook until just tender (cooking time will vary from two to 10 minutes, depending on the type of greens, so taste a little every few minutes to check). Stir in the butter and check the seasoning. Transfer to warmed bowls and serve immediately.

:: Carnival! by David Ponte, Lizzy Barber & Jamie Barber, photography by Martin Poole, is published by Quadrille, priced £10. Available now

THREE OF THE BEST…Flatbread thins

:: Waitrose Tomato & Basil Thins, £1 for 100g (Waitrose)

These moreish thins are so yummy, you’ll be reaching for more. Enjoy the crispy bread alternative dipped into hummus, or crumble atop a salad for extra crunch.

:: Ryvita Thins Caramelised Onion Flatbreads, £1.89 for 125g (Asda, The Co-operative, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose)

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At just 27 calories each and packed with fibre, Ryvita’s delicious range of thins are perfect for combating mid-afternoon hunger pangs. Carmelised onion, the newest flavour in the range, is ideal dunked into melted soft cheese.

:: Walkers Sensations Crispy Thins Thai Sweet Chilli, £1.99 for 100g (Tesco, Asda, Waitrose)


If you’re a fan of the popular Thai sweet chilli-flavoured Walkers Sensations crisps, you’ll love these new crispy thins. Baked to achieve a light and crispy texture, the full-flavoured crackers are perfect for dipping and dunking.