When I decided to designate this week Brazil week, I didn’t know I would end up making something surprisingly akin to Thai curry, only without the burn-your-tongue spiciness or the fish sauce. When I tasted my moqueca de peixe (fish stew), however, it made me realize how much of our world cuisine is interconnected, whether directly, the way Japanese curry probably evolved from curries originating further west in Asia, or indirectly, the way similar ingredients (fish, coconut milk, vegetables) produced similar results in different parts of the world such as Brazil and Thailand.
I should say that real Brazilian moqueca may be a bit different, primarily because I didn’t use any dende (red palm oil). Nor did I search it out, as it’s high in saturated fat, my cupboard space is limited, and I don’t foresee many other uses for it. I used olive oil instead. There is actually another type of Brazilian moqueca, moqueca capixaba, from the state of Espirito Santo, that uses olive oil instead of dende. That dish, however, doesn’t use coconut milk, so mine is a bit of a hybrid. That’s OK with me. My life and family are about hybridization, and as any gardener knows, hybrids are often the hardiest.
As I was researching moqueca de peixe, I found a huge range of recipes online, some very similar and some a bit different. I ended up not following any particular recipe but using what I thought would be tasty, based on the most common themes in moqueca recipes. Here’s my version. It’s easy, quick and gets even better after having sat for a day.
- 4 fillets of firm white fish, preferably fresh (I used cod loin)
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 sweet red pepper, sliced in rings
- 1 green pepper, sliced in rings
- 1 yellow pepper, sliced in rings
- 3-4 large tomatoes or equivalent, sliced in rings (I used three smallish tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomaotes)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 100-200 ml fish broth (I made mine by simmering a small bag of fine katsuobushi with water.)
- 1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste (regular sweet paprika would work too but I find the smoked stuff adds a nice depth of flavour)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Cayenne pepper (optional), to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Good handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- Lime or lemon wedges for serving, optional
- Peri peri sauce for serving, optional
- Cut fillets into large chunks; two to three pieces per fillet. Season with salt and pepper and marinate in lime juice for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Using a bag to marinate, with excess air removed, will ensure best coverage.
- Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into the bottom of a large pot. Put in a layer of tomatoes, followed by a layer of peppers. Add fish with all the marinade. Then, on top of the fish, put another layer of tomatoes and another layer of peppers.
- In a separate pot, whisk together coconut milk, fish broth, paprika, caynenne pepper (if using), salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until it comes to the boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour into the pot with fish and vegetables. Sprinkle chopped coriander on top and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook fish.
- Serve with optional lime wedges, extra chopped coriander, peri-peri sauce and rice.