Wednesday, July 2

Brazilian Cheese Balls, not footballs.........

There is a footie tournament on at the moment, have you heard?  In Brazil, where football (not soccer my friends) is a form of demi-religion, a bit like rugby here ......when the All Blacks are winning anyway.
Being married to a fan, I know more about the round ball game than I any girl needs (he’s also keen on the NRL so any questions about that you want answered just pop on a postcard....), but Brazilian food is a bit of a mystery. My first experience of a caipirinha was made by a friend who had lived in Brasilia for several years as a student, it was delicious of course. But I suspect I’m not the only person who hasn’t progressed much past that.

So I have really been enjoying Andy Bates Street Feasts in Brazil, currently playing on the Travel Channel. I love his enthusiasm, and of course it’s always exciting finding out about food you never even knew existed. And boy have I uncovered a gem. Balls of cheesy chewy goodness, which coincidentally are made for sports viewing. I have actually tried these once before, at a book reading but I didn’t actually know where they came from. After watching them made on Street Feasts I realised that was what we had, and how easy they are to make. 

Now I would not normally recommend a more obscure ingredient , but believe it or not I actually found the secret ingredient to these treats at my local supermarket. It is called manioc flour, and is made from cassava. Cassava has been a staple food since pre-Columbian times in Central and South America, and was introduced into Africa by Portuguese slave traders from Brazil. The root is a dense carbohydrate source, and grows well in poor soil. As such, it has become staple food stuff in many part of the Americas and Africa, and an important source of income.
***update*** I contacted the NZ importers of the flour, they sell it and other brazilian foodstuffs direct to the public online at

But the most arresting fact about certain types of cassava is the work required to make it non-poisonous. Bitter cassava varieties must be processed correctly, often by soaking and boiling multiple times, to detoxify them. Which of course begs the question, who figured that out? I am always fascinated when I come across food that required processing to make it edible and/or non toxic. Mouldy cheese, soured milk, fish so minging it makes the can bulge....who wakes up one morning and thinks “oh lovely, I’ll have a bit of that??”

Thankfully someone did, and now you get to eat the yummiest cheese snacks I have come across. Don't worry, perfectly safe to eat! They are super easy to make, and are ideal for people who cannot tolerate gluten,( manioc four is gluten free), providing a lovely chewy texture, somewhere between a choux pastry gougere and a cheese bun. What is not to love......

Brazilian Cheese Balls  (based on a recipe from Andy Bates Street Feasts)
makes about 48

200 grams Manioc Flour (the brand I use has labelled it Sour Starch)
200 grams cheese- I used good old Tasty Cheddar
3 eggs
25 grams soft butter
A splash or two of milk

The flour is slightly grainier than wheat flour, and has a texture more like cornflour. Pop into a bowl with the cheese and rub together, as if you were making pastry. You can do this by hand, or put the ingredients into the food processor and whizz together briefly. 

You are looking for a texture similar to breadcrumbs.

If you are using a food processor, take the mixture out and put it into a large bowl. Add the eggs, butter and a little splash of milk, bringing everything together with a knife. Once it is starting to come together (it will look like yellow scone dough) get in with your hands and work the mixture to a soft dough, adding more milk if necessary. Now I won’t lie, the aroma is quite “cheesy”, the flour has a slightly sour smell which I found a teeny bit odd at first. But once it is baked it does not smell any thing but delicious, trust me.
Using your hands, roll into balls about the size of a walnut and pop into mini muffin pans which have been greased/sprayed with oil. If you don’t have mini muffin tins just bake on a tray greased or lined with baking paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 15 minutes until golden.

The outside will be crunchy with a soft slightly gooey middle. I served them with a tomato chili jam for dipping, but they are delicious as is. They would also be great with soup or as part of an antipasto platter.

The mixture does make a large batch, so if you don’t need them all at once (do however bear in mind they are very moreish), freeze the uncooked balls on a tray then store in a bag or container; they can be cooked straight from frozen.

Have I convinced you? Please try them, with a caipirinha if you can, for a perfect intro to Brazilian food. Now, lets see if there is some football on the telly.......


  1. Love the looks of these could you please tell me where you get the sour starch please?

  2. You're back :) And these look delicious! And it has been way to long since we caught up!! xx

    1. Thanks, yes, been way to long:) Have sent you an email, want to hear all about the trip!


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