Category: Cooking for friends

Cassava and Pork Ribs Soup

In Sao Paulo, restaurants and bakeries prepare what we call Soup Festival during winter: in a buffet style, you get a great variety of traditional Brazilian soups, all served inside a hard crust bread such as sourdough or Italian crust.

So that is where the idea of preparing a Soup Festival with my friends came from.

Although our soups weren’t going to be all Brazilian, one thing that I was determined to have was the round loaf to serve the soup on it.

It wasn’t an easy task to find the right bread for it. After going to lots of well known bakeries at Sydney CBD and trying to explain the concept of having soup on a bread, I was getting frustrated. Firstly, the cost of a single loaf varies from $5.00 to $7.00. Pretty unreasonable from my perspective. Secondly, none of them had the bread in a reasonable size and shape.

Eventually a friend of mine found a Greek baker in the South that knew exactly what we were talking about and had a giant hard crust loaf (which the baker calls small) for a bargain of $3.00! The loaf could probably feed a dozen of people but we are happy with its quality and that did the job. Save the Greeks!

So we prepared 4 different types of soups, some slow cooked, some pressure cooked but all in all, they were all packed with loads of flavours. Our menu was:

– Potato, Bacon and Leek soup by Carol & Marcos
– Pumpkin Soup by Janice & Emilio
– Split pea and ham soup by Priscila & Mariano
– Cassava and Pork Ribs soup, a very traditional Brazilian treat prepared by Mel & Marco

As garnishes we had Gruyere cheese, chives, green olives and two types of beautiful extra virgin oils.

What an amazing and warm evening sharing our food around a long table full of rounds and rounds of soups, drinks and laughs. It can’t get better than this!

So let me share with you Marco Franco’s recipe – Cassava and Pork Ribs Soup. You will be amazed by how well the pork flavour infuses into these soft chunks of cassava and how well these two ingredients go together.

Cassava and Pork Ribs Soup


1 Kg cassava cut into 10 cm long chunks
1 Kg pork ribs
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cubes ribs stock Maggi (alternatively you can use bacon or beef stock)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
black pepper


Cut individual pork ribs apart. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
In a pressure cooker, fry garlic and onion in the heated olive oil until golden and brown.
Add the ribs and stock cubes and stir for about 5 minutes or until ribs caramelize.
Add the cassava chunks and stir for another 3 minutes.
Pour enough water in the pressure cooker to cover the mixture. Lid the pressure cooker and maintain in medium to high heat until it reaches pressure.
Reduce heat to low and cook it for a further 40 minutes.
Release the pressure, take the lid off and leave the soup cooking until thickened, stirring occasionally.
Add the parsley and serve immediately.

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Exotic Mushroom Risotto

Exotic Mushroom Risotto

Despite all the Italian influence in many dishes that we cooked at home, my family is 100% carnivore like most Brazilian families.
Then a mushroom risotto is a dish that was never part of our menu to be honest!

Even at restaurants, I never considered ordering a vegetarian dish (when in fact there were not many vegetarian options on the menu). I’ve always been used to eat some sort of meat in every single meal.

In Australia, a country that has a large number of immigrants who do not eat meat for religious reasons or even by lifestyle, I’ve learned to appreciate cooking vegetarian dishes and risotto is in fact one of the greatest findings !

This dish is actually the hubby’s specialty and it is a winner when cooked for friends. I’ve chosen to make it after I went to the Sydney Markets on the weekend and I found very fresh mushrooms on a really good price: by AUD 10 a kilo of Australian grown shiitake, I guess there is no need to explain anything else, isn’t it ?
The recipe that I made serves 4 people generously.

Exotic Mushroom Risotto

Exotic Mushroom Risotto - Ingredients


500 g Arborio rice
250 g fresh shiitake mushroom
150 g fresh shimeji mushroom
25 g dried porcini mushroom
1 small onion, minced
3 tbsp butter
750 ml chicken stock
500 ml warm water
100 ml dry white wine
olive oil
chives for decoration
grated Parmesan cheese


Soak the porcini mushrooms in warm water. Do not throw this water out because it will be used as stock for the risotto.
Thoroughly clean the mushrooms shiitake and shimeji.

Remove stems from shiitake and slice the rest. Reserve the stems to prepare the stock.
Loosen well shimeji. Save any excess stem for the stock as well.

Then start preparing the stock for risotto.

Mix chicken stock, the water used to hydrated the porcini mushrooms, a pinch of salt, the stems of the mushrooms in a saucepan and bring it to medium heat for 15 minutes. Strain the stock and keep it warm in low heat.

In another pan, melt one tablespoon butter, add olive oil and fry the onion. Add the rice and fry until the rice starts to turn translucent. Add the white wine, stirring well until wine evaporates completely.
Mix the porcini mushroom with the rice. Then add a ladle of hot stock and stir until liquid is all absorbed by the rice.
Continue in this way, gradually adding stock and stirring until rice is tender and al dente.

In a saucepan, Melt one tablespoon butter and fry the shiitake and shimeji. Mix the sauteed mushrooms to the risotto, the remaining butter and parmesan, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Let rest for about 2 minutes.

Then serve it, garnishing with chives (fried or raw, as you like).


– Wipe the mushrooms using a paper. Due to the spongy texture they will absorb water if washed.

– The chicken stock can be substituted for vegetable stock.

– This dish requires a bit of coordination so make sure you prepare all ingredients before starting to cook the rice so you won’t mess it up.

The wine

Morello 2005 - Nebbiolo

To match the risotto, we chose a wine made from Nebbiolo grapes, as wine and dishes from the same region usually match well.
Nebbiolo is a grape originally Italian and it seems that even today is one of the most difficult grapes to grow outside Italy.
This grape is used to make Barollo, one of the Italian most famous types of red wines.

Some Australian producers however began to cultivate grapes in regions with similar climatic conditions to those in Europe.

This is the case of wine we bought, a Morello 2005 produced by Thorn Clark from Barossa Valley region.

The wine matched well with the dinner and proved a great cost benefit.

I found the colour very interesting: medium brown, orange, looking like copper colour.
It wasn’t much dry in the mouth which makes sense for its soft tannins and good acidity.
And on top of the rich floral and cherry aromas, this wine actually smells a little bit like mushrooms.

I was very curious to experience an authentic Italian Barollo and to able to compare it to the Australian ones. But you know, at the end of the day the Aussie one does the job very well too!

Wine: Morello
Winery: Thorn Clarke
Composition: Nebbiolo
Harvest: 2005
Country: Australia
Region: Barossa Valley
Grape: Nebbiolo
Price: AUD 18
Graduation: 14%

Risotto and Nebbiolo as an Italian dinner

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