Masterchef 13, “journey” to Brazil with Alex Atala, to discover ceviche, cassava, tapioca and farofa

It’s a real Amazonian cooking school set up on the fourth evening of Masterchef. Aspiring chefs have learned to give color and new flavors to their dishes by following the advice of Alex Atala, the chef who uses the Amazon as a pantry for his cuisine. A cuisine that is based on protection of biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest. Under the cloche, the chef’s dishes appeared in front of the competitors D.O.M, two Michelin stars in Sao Paulo. But not Amazonian ants, one of the chef’s signature ingredients.

The first course is a riot of colours: the Ceviche of flowers and indigenous bee honey, the flower ceviche which, as Deborah said, “is a little meadow in a bowl” and contains what Atala says is one of the most interesting products to discover in Brazilian cuisine: honey from Amazon bees, which she used to the marinade of the flowers.
To make ceviche, following the traditional method, you need five ingredients, the chef explained: lime, chili pepper, onion, coriander and fish. In this case he replaced the fish with seaweed and transformed it into a vegetable ceviche.

In the second course there is another part of the chef’s research work who asks the competing competitors to dare to replicate his inventions. We start from fruit to create a savory dish; he used coconut and mango to accompany the pork. And he explains to the competitors and spectators that fruit can be transformed into a sort of vegetable bacon, thanks to a double cooking technique (first smoking and then cooking in the oven at a low temperature).

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A thousand fruits appeared on the counter, all wonderful expressions of Brazil, as well as mango and pineapple, platano and tamarind, guanabana (or graviola, is a sour fruit, of which only the pulp is eaten or used to make sorbets, ice creams or drinks), cabossa, i.e. the cocoa fruit, carambola.

Among the best-known ingredients, brought by Atala to Masterchef, there are also the maniocthe tuber that is said to have been cultivated in these areas for over 10 thousand years and which can be cooked as it is, that is, nice and fleshy.
Then tapioca which is nothing more than cassava flour. Cassava, like all tubers, can be cooked in the oven cut into pieces or fried, but it must be cleaned well, the peel must always be removed. Tapioca is a flour, and as such can be used in cooking. It can serve as a thickener or in combination with other flours.

Chances are you’ve heard of the tapioca puddingespecially if you followed the American sitcom Alice in the 80s (it was the favorite dish of Vera, one of the three waitresses).

From cassava to tapioca, up to farofa, sautéed tapioca. There are various farofa recipes in Brazil: there are those who cook it with vegetables, but also those who sauté tapioca with sausage and eggs. It is usually served as a side dish to the main course.

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Without forgetting the tucupi (appeared in the last part of the skill test), the yellow juice extracted from the extracted from wild cassava rootpeeled, grated and juiced.

In Atala’s words, however, the best teaching so far, the one that is also valid outside of Masterchef: “Don’t buy, don’t cook and don’t serve what isn’t good for you, for others, and for the planet”.

The post first appeared on www.repubblica.it

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