Carreteiro: that is how it was called who used to transport goods, supplies and miscellaneous items in a sort of oxcart across southern Brazil.
The cart and the lonely man were carrying not only the family memories but also food that helped in a healthy way to overcome the long distances that were to come.
In his bag there was ever present beef jerky – a salt-preserved meat and dried in the wind – some protein that could be preserved without refrigeration.
That’s how the “arroz carreteiro” (the oxcart driver’s rice) was then created: a mixture of rice, beef jerky and onions prepared in an iron pot in one of many stops that the man would have to do.
The dish is known as one of the most traditional gaucho (gaucho is how is called who is born in Rio Grande do Sul) cuisine today is enjoyed by many throughout Brazil in different version. Even the gauchos themselves have created a version that can be made with leftover BBQ instead of beef jerky.
Arroz Carreteiro (my style)
Well, dried meat is not something that we can easily find around Sydney. Actually, I only know 2 butcheries in Petersham (the Portuguese suburb, that is little far from where I live) who sell it and still think the meat is fattier than I used to buy in Brazil.
Even so, after months thinking about this dish, I eventually found motivation to go to Petersham and buy the ingredients that I needed. I brought dried meat and smoked Portuguese chorizo.
My version was based on the site CTG (Gaucho’s Traditions Center) and it serves 8 people generously.
1k g of dried beef clean (most of the fat removed)
80g smoked bacon
200 g smoked Portuguese chorizo, diced
500 g rice
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
water to boil the beef jerky
1.2l water to cook the rice
chopped parsley to serve
Cut the dried beef in large cubes and desalt it, placing it in a bowl with water that should be changed 2 times every 6 hours (approximately for 12 hours or until the excess salt is removed completely).
In a pot with hot water bring the beef jerky to boil. Drain the meat and shred it, or if you prefer cut into smaller cubes instead.
Soak the rice in cold water, without washing it.
In a thick iron pan, fry the chorizo and set aside. Using the excess fat, fry the bacon, garlic and onion. Then, add the beef jerky, the (already fried) chorizo and pepper to the iron pot. Stir it for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and continue stirring.
Drain the rice that was soaked and add it to pan.
Add about 1.2 liters of water, stir it, lower the heat and leave the pan half-closed.
Cook over low heat until the rice is al dente. Check the salt and water, supplementing them if necessary.
Serve immediately garnished with parsley.
Adjust the salt only at the end, as when boiling the beef the salt can be accentuated.
The rice should match 1/3 of beef jerky.
The rice takes about 20 minutes to cook, depending on heat.