Moqueca: Bahia’s Fish Stew

Moqueca: Bahia’s Fish Stew

Last Friday SBS showed the final episode of the beautiful documentary ‘This is Brazil’. The adorable Fernanda de Paula was the perfect choice to talk about our exotic and diverse country. She showed an incredible spontaneity and great passion for Brazil during her visits to numerous cities that will be hosting the World Cup 2014. This episode was about the vibrant historic city of Salvador, where the  UNESCO’s heritage-listed site of Pelourinho is located. The splendid and picturesque site was the old city centre of Salvador and it is characterised by hundreds of colonial-style buildings, houses, churches and monuments. The state of Bahia is the centre-stage of the Afro-Brazilian culture and, as a result, its capital Salvador is where you can enjoy rich Afro-Brazilian culture reflected on the arts, electrifying music, dance and, of course, mouth-watering cuisine.

The recipe I am posting today is an exquisite Afro-Brazilian dish of Bahia called Moqueca. Along with Bobó (check recipe here), Moqueca is a must-try dish if you want to understand what the flavours of Bahia are about.  The name Moqueca originates from the Tupi-Guarani indigenous word moquear which means ‘slow-cooking over a fire’.

This dish is, by far, the favourite of my Aussie friends. Even those who are not so gluttons have succumbed to this tempting stew. It is so light and tasty, that you just can’t stop eating it! Indeed, Moqueca is starting to get famous in Australia, even the talented young chef Benjamin Cooper created his own (with lots of seafood and brussels sprouts!) while participating in Episode 16 of MasterChef Australia.

I also added my own twists to this recipe. Originally you cook all the vegetables at the same time but I prefer to pre-fry the onions to make them taste sweeter. In addition, I like to make a fish stock from scratch, but you can use a good-quality store-bought one as a replacement. For an extra lemony flavour I also add ground coriander seeds and lemon zest, but the essence of the recipe remains intact. Have a try at this recipe and maybe you can also create your own version of Moqueca at home.

I am very lucky to be able to cook my Moqueca with the beautiful Tasmanian catch called Blue-Eye Trevalla, a firm white-fleshed deep water fish with a delicate flavour. But you can cook your Moqueca with any white-fleshed fish of your choiceFish cooking times will vary depending on the type and size of the fish used.

 Ingredients 

4 tbs dende palm oil

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 long red chillies, sliced

1 tbs ground coriander

2 red capsicums, sliced 1 cm thick

1 kg white fish fillets (such as Blue-Eye or Flat-Head), deboned and skinless

4 large tomatoes, sliced 1cm thick

1 ½ cups (325ml) store-bought or home-made fish stock (check recipe here)

1 cup (250ml) canned coconut milk

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lime

1 bunch coriander, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Chillies in oil (optional):

6 long red chillies

1/2 cup (125ml extra-virgin olive oil)

To serve:

Chillies in oil, sliced

Lime wedges

Chopped coriander

Steamed rice

Roasted cassava flour*

 Instructions 

1. In a large frying pan heat olive oil and dende oil under low-medium heat and fry the onions, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes or until soft.

2. Add the garlic, chillies and ground coriander and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the capsicums and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the fish fillets, cover them with sliced tomatoes, stock and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered for approximately 5 minutes or until fish is just cooked through.

3. For the chillies in oil (if using), in a small saucepan bring chillies and oil to the boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cook for 3-4 minutes or until chillies are softened.

4. Pour in coconut milk and bring it to boil. Turn off the heat and stir in coriander leaves, lime juice, zest, and salt and pepper to taste, taking care to maintain the fish fillets intact. Serve warm with steamed rice, coriander, lime wedges, chilli in oil, and roasted cassava flour.

Serves: 6

*Available online