Lesley Lorimier makes sweet and savoury tapioca from Brazil

Lesley Lorimier with her sweet and savoury combinations of Brazilian tapioca.
Lesley Lorimier with her sweet and savoury combinations of Brazilian tapioca.

LIKE many international residents in our community, Lesley Lorimier moved to Australia from Brazil seeking a 'better' life.

In 2014 she packed her bags and left a life of poverty in Brazil and headed to Sydney, not being able to speak a word of English.

Now seven years later, Ms Lormier has two bachelor degrees, two successful cleaning businesses behind her, a loving, supportive marriage to her 'soul mate' and is also studying to become a life coach.

She said she always carried with her a love of Brazilian cuisine and the 'magic' memories cooking brought back of her mother.

For this week's In My Kitchen, Ms Lorimier made four, sweet and savoury versions of tapioca, a common street food crepe often found in Brazil.

Born in Sao Paulo in South Brazil, Ms Lorimier said tapioca was more of a 'treat' one would purchase at a food market, whereas in North Brazil it was cooked and eaten at home for breakfast and late lunch.

The main element of tapioca is starch extracted from cassava root which is native to North Brazil.

It is gluten free, high in carbohydrates and can be used as a suitable replacement for bread.

Ms Lorimier said it was sometimes difficult to find cassava in Brazilian stores in Australia, so she made her own using a transparent bowl.

"You take the tapioca starch, cover it with water and leave it for about 40 minutes. When the water rises and is clear at the top, and the tapioca is hard like rocks, it is ready."

After draining the water, Ms Lorimier used a towel to dry the tapioca before placing it into a sieve.

She then sieved it into a bowl, adding salt for the sweet tapioca or oregano for the savoury.

"You can use any spices you'd like. The flour doesn't have much taste," Ms Lorimier said.

"You can store the flour in plastic bags in the fridge for three weeks or three months in the freezer."

As she spoke in fluent English, Ms Lorimier reminisced back to when she studied a Bachelor of Business in Sydney just two years after moving to Australia.

My mum taught me to cook. She was always in the kitchen cooking all day and I was always there wanting to help. It was magical.

Lesley Lorimier

She referred to it as the 'hardest phase' of her life.

"I still didn't know how to write in English and I couldn't do a presentation or speak to the class.

"I had to translate to and complete every assignment in Portuguese and then translate it back to English. It was double the work, but that's what I had to do."

When asked what motivated her to continue on despite these difficulties, an emotional Ms Lorimier said although she loved her country, her motivation was that she wanted to stay in Australia.

"That feeling of having to go back was enough to keep going. I came from poverty at a bad level with no money and barely any food to eat. I didn't get to eat tapioca.

"It's not common for Brazilians like me to come to Australia, usually the ones here have a little bit of money behind them.

"I just wanted to change my reality and for me the only way to do that was through studying."

To cook the tapioca, Ms Lorimier scooped about 100 grams of the flour mixture into a hot pan with no oil.

Once the mixture was stuck together, she folded in in half and then added the filler.

Ms Lorimier told the Mail she had 'magic memories' of cooking with her mother in Brazil.

Her mother, wouldn't allow her to cook in order to make sure nothing was wasted, so Ms Lorimier would watch her mum intently in the kitchen for years.

"My mum taught me to cook. She was always in the kitchen cooking all day and I was always there wanting to help. I found that magical," Ms Lorimier said.

She recalled the moment her mother allowed her to cook something by herself for the first time when she was just nine-years-old.

"I had been watching her as she made a cake and memorising how she did it. When I asked her if I could make my own, I was expecting her to say no, but she said yes.

"I was so happy. She just gave me a bowl and walked away," Ms Lormier said.

She said her mother was in disbelief at how good her cake batter had turned out and allowed her to put it in the oven to be cooked.

"She said, how did you learn to do this? And I said, from you.

"She made her own cake whilst mine was cooking but mine ended up turning out better than hers," Ms Lorimier laughed.

That feeling of having to go back was enough to keep going. I came from poverty at a bad level with no money and barely any food to eat. I didn't get to eat tapioca.

Lesley Lorimier

For her tapioca fillings, Ms Lorimier made four, different combinations, but said anyone can be creative and use any combination they'd like.

"For my savoury tapioca I've made a filling of 150 grams of chicken breast, some spinach and cottage cheese, and one with zucchini pesto, brown mushrooms and spinach.

"For sweet, you can be a little bit naughty. One of my fillings is peanut butter, banana and coconut, and the other has jelly [jam] and strawberries.

"What is actually really good is nutella, it's so delicious, but we don't have that in Brazil for this reason," Ms Lorimier laughed.

After a short stint on the Gold Coast, Ms Lorimier relocated to Bunbury in July when her husband, Matthew Campbell was offered a work opportunity.

She said they plan to move back to the Gold Coast when Mr Campbell's work contract finished, but for now enjoyed living in the region as a part of the Bunbury Multicultural Group.

Are you a local who loves to cook? Email editor@bunburymail.com.au.