Country we are exploring: Brazil

Continent: South America

Capital: Brasilia

Population: 200.4 million

Official Language(s): Portuguese

Fun Fact: Many Portuguese Jews were forced out of Portugal during the Inquisition and fled to Brazil. But even in Brazil, they had to keep their faith a secret. To this day Brazil has one of the highest populations of these “secret or crypto Jews” – somewhere between 15-40 million people!

Note: We found the original recipe on a cookbook called – A Drizzle of Honey: The Life and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews, and adopted it for our curriculum.

English recipe name: Jewish Brazilian Saffron Stew

Name of dish in native country: Ensopado Acafrao

Type of dish: Main course

Recommended season or holiday: Any time in winter

Serving Size: 20 people

Ingredient Spotlight: Garlic

Garlic has been used widely as a flavoring in cooking and used as medicine throughout ancient and modern history to prevent and treat a wide range of conditions and diseases. Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about five thousand years ago in Egypt. The original Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic to improve their performance in the Games. Eating garlic boosts your immune system, which means that it helps you fight colds and flu. Another reason to eat garlic is that it helps your heart work well. Every year, a big garlic festival is organized in Gilroy, California, where visitors have the chance to taste delicious garlicky meals. The best garlicky treat of course is the Garlic ice cream!


  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Very large pot
  • Spoon
  • Vegetable peeler


  • 6 lbs. beef, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 12 dried Thai birdseye chile peppers, crushed
  • ¾ – 1 cup olive oil
  • 45 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 6 onions, sliced
  • 6 large mangos, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups bulgur wheat
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 ½ tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • ¾ tsp ground chipotle

Big Chef Duties:

  1. Cut the beef, garlic, onions and mangos.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a large stew pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaves, and crushed birdseye peppers and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 more minutes. Set aside.
  3. Add more oil if needed, then cook the meat in a single layer until lightly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Repeat until all the meat has been cooked (you will likely have to do several batches). Add the onion mixture back in, stirring to combine.
  4. Assist the Little Chef with their duties.

Little Chef Duties:

  1. Assist with cutting the garlic, onions and mangos. Measure the other ingredients.
  2. Add enough water to just barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in half of the sliced mango, bulgur, saffron, allspice, salt, black pepper, and chipotle. Continue simmering, covered, for another 45-60 minutes, until the meat is tender.
  4. Remove the bay leaves, and stir in the remaining sliced mango.

Learn while you wait:

Did you know that an onion is actually a bulb – just like a tulip or daffodil before you plant it in your garden? Cut an onion in half and take a look at the different parts it contains. The diagram below will help you identify the names of each section of the onion bulb. The tunic is a dry papery covering (on the outside of the onion) that protects the bulb. The scale leaves are where food is stored for the plant – this helps it survive when the conditions aren’t good for it to grow. All plant growth occurs from the basal plate – the roots grow downward into the soil and new leaves grow from the upper side. If you save the basal plate (with roots attached) after you cut your onion, and plant it, eventually you will grow a new onion.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 7.53.47 PM

With a parent, you may go to this website to solve a word jumble using the names of the parts of an onion.

Presentation: As with most stews and curries, this actually tastes better the second day, after the flavors have had all night to meld together in the fridge.

Teach the kids how to say Bon Appetit in the language of this recipe: Bom apetite!

Did you know?

Brazil has a total of 274 threatened wildlife species. There are 80 threatened species of birds in Brazil. This is the highest of any country in the world. Humans have cut down over 20% of the Amazon rainforest in the last 40 years, thus destroying many species’ habitats and homes. At the rate we are cutting down the Amazon forest, many species will be extinct in the future.

Conversation igniters:

Do you know how a loss of species could affect the Food Chain? If one species is missing in the food chain, the predator of that species will starve and die because they will have nothing to eat. This creates a ripple effect. Also, the prey of the missing species will grow in size because they are not being eaten by any predators.

Take Action: