I had been fidgety about the unseasonably warm weather around here, and then winter went and showed up all at once. Temperatures hovering around -32 with the windchill is the perfect reason to have a pot of something or other simmering on the stove, and I had been meaning to make a pot of feijoada – a thick Brazilian black bean stew, simmered with miscellaneous cuts of pork (and sometimes beef). The beauty of it is that dried beans take a few hours to soak and simmer, just like tough, flavourful cuts of meat, like pork shoulder and ham hocks. If you’ve never worked with smoked pork hocks before – it’s the ankle bit – this is a perfect reason to; you toss it in the pot and it does its thing, flavouring the beans with smoky meatiness, and then the chunks of tender meat fall off when you pull the bone and leathery skin out of the pot. Once you’ve cooked one, you’ll notice all kinds of delicious applications come up.
The essence of feijoada, a traditional black bean stew, is to use whatever meaty bits you have around – it’s most often made with a combination of fresh and cured meats, and makes use of the most flavourful, inexpensive cuts, like smoked pork hocks and fresh pork shoulder. This is essentially how I made mine, but feel free to use whatever cuts of meat you like – pork ribs, bacon, fresh or cured sausages – and add some chiles or other spices to suit your taste – certain cured meats and sausages will also add some kick.