All good food is made from good ingredients and it is a mistake to assume that all simple ingredients and basic staples are created equal.
Consider bread: the difference between a pappy, bleached white plastic loaf compared with a freshly baked artisan sourdough with a crackly crust and perfect crumb is obvious.
The same spectrum also exists for rice. On the one end you have the mushy, gluey, bland stuff that probably comes out of a packet with the words “easy cook” on it. On the other, you have beautifully fragrant, elegantly long grains of aged basmati.
As someone who grew up on Persian cooking, rice is a serious business. It’s at once the foundation and the star of most meals. With Persian polo, you get a heaping mound of perfectly separate, steaming grains, laced with saffron and a encased by a golden crust of tadig – the best bit.
When I first met my other half, he used to buy some cheap “easy cook” monstrosity, adamant that “rice is rice, isn’t it?”
He now gets it: you need the best possible quality to make dreamy polo (or any rice dish) and you can’t get much better than Tilda.
So I was thrilled to be invited to an evening hosted by Tilda, supperclub hero The London Foodie aka Luiz Hara, Brazilian blogger Hot and Chilli aka Rosanna McPhee, and Masterchef 2010 winner Dhruv Baker.
With the World Cup on and Rio 2016 around the corner, all eyes are on Brazil and Tilda is celebrating with their Limited Edition Brazilian Samba rice.
Luiz handed around drinks and pao de queijo…
…while his dog worked the room…
Having spent five wonderful weeks in Brazil last year, I knew that rice or arroz is a big deal for this cuisine too. The Brazilians are generally fans of starchy carbs; roots such as manioc and cassava are often part of meals, and dishes of farofa (flour made from manioc) are left on tables as a condiment to sprinkle over your food for texture and a little crunch.
For our Brazilian party, rice featured in a number of ways which showcased how versatile and delicious this staple can be.
Dhruv and Rosanna made bolihnos, rice fritters with dried shrimp which they served with lime and saffron mayo – a perfect canapé or bar snack.
The special Samba rice, with its zingy flavours of chillies, lime and tempero baiano herb was a perfect foil for the deep umami richness of classic Feijoada, the national dish of pork and bean stew…
…and the creamy spiciness of seafood dish Mocqueca…
Brazilians are famous for their love of meat so of course there were hefty slabs of barbecued picanha (rump cap).
Dhruv sliced these thinly and served them with pimenta de bico (tiny Brazilian pickled chilli peppers which pop delightfully in your mouth) and whole roasted garlic bulbs.
Equally delicious was the side salad of palm hearts, tomato and red onion. Summer on a plate.
Thanks to our hosts Tilda, Luiz, Rosanna and Dhruv who all certainly displayed true Brazilian hospitality; we all left happy, well fed and warmly tipsy.
I look forward to recreating the same vibes this summer and beyond with special Tilda Limited Edition Samba Rice!