On a previous post (Keeping your culture alive through cooking) I talked about being a Brazilian expatriate living in New Zealand for six years, and how I use some of my cooking skills to ease homesickness.
During the months of June and July, we have these festivities across the country to celebrate some of our patron saints and, of course, to indulge in several delicious and regional dishes.
Although dishes vary according the Brazilian region you’re in (we have 5 Regions: Southeast, Northeast, North, Center-West and South).
However, some dishes are typically present at festivities all around the country.
Canjica is one of them, and my personal favorite.
The name varies also depending on the State where you are, but the recipe not so much. There are basically two types: the white canjica (made with white or yellow hominy corn, grated coconut, condensed milk and milk) and the brown canjica (made with either white or yellow hominy corn and peanuts).
Today, I made the white canjica with yellow hominy corn. It’s really easy to make. The hardest thing was to find the right corn here in Christchurch, New Zealand.
First time I found our Brazilian hominy corn, by a Brazilian company called YOKI, was on an international isle at one supermarket in town about two years ago. Unfortunately, last time I tried to buy some more (last July), there was none left on the shelf. I think the supermarket was probably selling only those Brazilian products that sold better. I totally understand that! I was disappointed though, as I love canjica and I had a party planned that month to celebrate the our so-called Festa Julhina (July Festivity).
I visited a couple of organic shops without any luck. Then, I Googled “hominy corn in New Zealand”. A shop came up, but it was located farther south from where we are (in Dunedin). I rang the shop and the staff member confirmed they had it. However, as a product from Mexico, the conr was canned and soaked in lime juice.
I didn’t want to take any chances and order something I wasn’t sure if would actually work for my specific need. The staff member was very sweet to say that if I ordered immediately, he would see that I had the corn delivered to me the following day (instead of the normal 2 day-delivery time). My party was 2 days away!
Still, I didn’t want to risk using lime-soaked hominy corn to make Brazilian canjica. I’m not saying that the Mexican product is in any way bad or unpleasant! I’m only saying that the lime juice in the corn would probably change the original Canjica flavor.
I decided to ask for a friend’s help, and she contacted another Brazilian who lives in Christchurch and is known for selling ready-made canjica. Turns out that the other lady buys hominy corn from an Asian shop!
I can’t say how surprised I was to hear that. Please, forgive my ignorance!
So, I drove to the named Asian shop and to my greatest relief (last thing I wanted was to throw a July Festivity party and not serve Canjica), I found the corn.
The label was all in Chinese, so I asked the cashier to explain whether that type of corn could be used as I intended (once soaked, it goes soft), and he confirmed it.
Hooray! The July Festivity was saved!
Now, enough chit-chat and let’s go to the recipe (as I learned it from my mom, who doesn’t say Canjica by the way. She calls it “White Corn Mingau” – she’s from Belem, North of Brazil).
400 g of hominy corn (either yellow or white)
1 tin can of condensed milk
250 ml of milk
50 g of grated coconut
a pinch of salt
cinnamon (powder and sticks)
- Leave the corn soaking in clean water overnight.
- Then, rinse the corn and put it in a large soup pot and pour water just enough to cover the corn (don’t fill it to the top!).
- Cook the corn and the cinnamon sticks (I used 3) for 40 – 45 minutes on medium heat, until corn is soft. Keep an eye while it’s cooking to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate completely and the corn is burned. Pour some more water if needed.
- Add the milk, condensed milk, the cloves (I used about 10 crushed sticks to release the aroma and the flavor more easily) and cinnamon (1 teaspoon) and the grated coconut.
- Cook all the ingredients for another 10 minutes, on medium to low heat, stirring it every now and then to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
Serve it in a bowl while it’s hot. You can sprinkle some more cinnamon on top if you like the flavor.
*** Vegan version is also possible. I’ve tried using coconut cream and peanut butter to thicken it and it was a success among my vegan friends at my party in July!