Recipes | Moqueca baiana (Bahia-style fish stew)


Moqueca baiana (Bahia-style fish stew)

If you're inspired to cook Brazilian with the Olympics kicking off this weekend try this classic fish stew from Thiago Castanho and Luciana Bianchi's Brazilian Food.

This stew is one of the most famous dishes of Brazil and, as its name implies, is traditional to Bahia state. It is prepared with coconut cream and dendê oil and served on a moquequeira (a clay dish made specially for serving moquecas). I usually make this with one of the most popular fish of our region, the filhote.

Serves 4

Spice paste

* 6 black peppercorns

* 1 tsp ground turmeric

* 10g root ginger

* 6 coriander seeds

* ½ pimenta malagueta or hot red chilli, deseeded

* 20g dried salt shrimps

Coconut cream

* 900ml coconut water

* 420g dried coconut meat

* 240g young (green) coconut meat

* 550g filhote or catfish steaks, or hake or halibut fillets

* juice of ½ lime

* salt

* 20ml dendê (palm) oil

* 30g onion, chopped, plus 30g onion, sliced

* 30g tomato, chopped, plus 30g tomato, sliced

* 5g garlic, crushed

* 3 pimentas-de-cheiro or other mild chillies

* 30g red pepper, sliced

* 20g green pepper, sliced

* 5g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

* 5g spring onions, finely chopped

1. First make the spice paste: process the black peppercorns, turmeric, ginger, coriander seeds, chilli and dried shrimp in a blender or food processor until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

2. To make a coconut cream, warm the coconut water in a saucepan. Put it in a blender with the dried coconut meat and process until the coconut pieces are very finely chopped. Strain through a fine sieve, then return it to the blender. Add the young (green) coconut meat, blend until smooth and creamy and set aside.

3. Season the fish with the lime juice and a little salt and set aside.

4. In a large clay pot, heat the dendé oil over a medium heat and sauté the chopped onion, chopped tomato, garlic, pimentas-de-cheiro and 1 tablespoon of the spice paste until the vegetables are softened.

5. Stir in 1.1 litres of the coconut cream, bring to a simmer, then add the fish and cook for 5 minutes.

6. Add the red and green peppers and the tomato and onion slices and cook for a further 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the coriander and spring onions before serving.

Tips from Thiago:

Dendê oil and dried salt shrimps are sold in Brazilian and African stores. Substitute a good-quality shop-bought coconut milk for the coconut cream recipe if you can’t find young (green) coconut meat to make it fresh.

What to drink: Although Brazilians themselves tend to drink caipirinhas or beer with food you might like the idea of serving a Brazilian wine. Marks & Spencer has put together the best selection of which I'd pick the Aracauria Riesling Pinot Grigio which is on offer at the time of writing at £42 a six bottle case (£7 a bottle). Otherwise I'd probably go for an Argentinian Torrontes. A fresh young Viognier could also work.

Extracted from Brazilian Food by Thiago Castanho & Luciana Bianchi, published by Mitchell Beazley at £30

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