Brazil, the largest country in South America, is home to one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Brazil also boasts one-fourth of the world's plants, including some of the most famous and rare spices. Brazilians use these spices in foods that are hot, spicy and savoury, including feijoada, a traditional meat stew. Some of the spices are also exported for use in Filipino, Arabic and European cuisine.
Tempero Baiano literally means "Seasoning from Bahia" and originates from the northeastern state of Bahia. The spice is particularly versatile, meaning it can complement most meals and make them lively, tasteful and spicy. Brazilian chefs use many variations of the spice, so no two tempero baiano mixtures are the same. However, a common mixture for tempero baiano consists of one tablespoon of cumin seeds; half a tablespoon of dried parsley, turmeric and white peppercorn; a quarter tablespoon of crushed red pepper; and one tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves. All the spices are mixed together before blending, then finely crushed.
Paracress is not related to the more common and edible watercress and is instead closer to the daisy family of flowers. Paracress has large green and red leaves with yellow and maroon flowers. The parts of the plant that are used for eating are the leaves and, in particular, the flowers. The plant, which is native to Brazil and other areas of South America, does not have a strong odour. However, paracress does have a very pungent and heavy flavour. This means the spice is not used as much in commercial cooking but is put into aboriginal and tribal dishes. For example, the juices of paracress are used with fried duck and garlic; a thick fish soup can also be completed with chillies and whole paracress leaves. Paracress is considered to have a subtle heat, so it often replaces black pepper flavouring in South American and European cuisine.
Annatto is a Brazilian spice that has been exported all over the world. The spice is a flavouring agent and is also used in the dyeing of foods such as cheese, butter and smoked fish. The Mayan Indians of America even used it as coloured war paint. Annatto seeds are bright red, triangular in shape and roughly 1/8 inch in width; the seeds are used whole or ground down into a brick or paste. The smell is known as being slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg and the taste is sweet and peppery with a very mild heat. The spice has been widely exported and is particularly well-used in the Philippines for dishes such as Ukoy (shrimp and sweet potato fritters) and Pipian (chicken and pork in an annatto sauce).