I first had this Brazilian fish stew on the beach of Ilha Grande, just south-west of Rio de Janeiro. The stew was served in a cast iron pot which was placed in an iron wrought frame, and was accompanied by rice, farofa (toasted manioc flour) and a thick vegetable sauce. The picture is of the Moqueca I had in Brazil.
Moqueca is made by cooking fish, or shrimp or crab, in a mixture of coconut milk, tomatoes, palm oil and fresh coriander. I didn’t have palm oil so used sunflower oil instead, and as I couldn’t find fresh coriander, my version has dried coriander seeds. For a more traditional Moqueca, leave out the coriander seeds and add a small bush of fresh coriander to the sauce before you poor it over the fish. The Moqueca I had on the beach had steaks of fish (so cut over the width of the fish and the bones still in) in it. In this version, I use boneless fish fillets, for easier eating. However, if you keep the fish steaks whole, you can quite easily remove the bones on your plate.
The Madame Jeanette pepper is named after a Brazilian prostitute, so I found it rather adequate for a Brazilian dish, also because I love their flavour. The Madame Jeanette pepper is quite hot though, so use a different pepper if you are not a spice lover. I make my Moqueca with 2 peppers even, but I reckon that is far too hot for most people.
- 250gr salmon fillet
- 300gr sea bass fillet
- 250gr halibut fillet
- 1 onion
- 5 tbs palm oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2cm fresh ginger
- 1 Madame Jeanette pepper (or 2 less spicy peppers)
- 1 tsp ground corianderseed (or a small bush of fresh coriander)
- 200ml fish stock
- 200ml coconut milk
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbs lemon juice
Cut the fish into rough chunks and place them in an oven dish. Chop the onion finely and add half of it to the fish, together with 2 tablespoons of oil. Press the garlic finely in a garlic press and add half of it to the fish dish.
Stir the fish and bake it for 10 minutes on 180°C.
Peel the ginger and chop it finely. Remove the seeds from the Madame Jeanette pepper and chop it finely. Be careful to not touch the flesh with your bare hands too much, especially not if you wear contact lenses like I do. You will make that mistake only once.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the remaining onion and garlic, the ginger, pepper and corianderseed (if using fresh coriander, add it when the sauce is finished, just before you add it to the fish). Fry the mixture until fragrant and browning slightly. Then add the fish stock, coconut milk, can of tomatoes and lemon juice. Leave the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes (you probably have to take your fish out of the oven in the meantime). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Poor the bubbling sauce over the fish, stir gently and briefly, then immediately place the dish back in the oven for 10-15 minutes on 180°C.
Serve with rice and, if you can find it, farofa.