Moqueca de peixe: Brazilian fish stew

Bowl of fish stew with peppers

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. Continue reading

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Okonomiyaki – Japanese savoury pancakes

Stack of cabbage pancakesIt was ‘Pancake Day’ on Tuesday, which I’d never even heard of before coming to England. I’d vaguely heard of Shrove Tuesday but thought of it as an uninteresting religious day. Pancake Day sounded much better, especially because I decided it was going to be an excuse to make okonomiyaki for dinner during our Japanese-themed week.

Okonomiyaki means “as you like it cooked” and really, you can make it with just about anything you like. It’s one of those brilliant recipes in which you really don’t have to measure anything. I’ll give you some rough quantities but feel free to estimate, substitute and generally do what you want with this recipe. That’s the spirit of okonomiyaki.

I used to make okonomiyaki a lot but I hadn’t since I discovered the low-FODMAP diet. The reason? One of the main ingredients is cabbage, which is high-FODMAP. However, up to a cup of savoy cabbage is considered low-FODMAP. I wasn’t very familiar with savoy cabbage, as it’s not common in Canada, and I wasn’t sure how it would work in okonomiyaki, since it’s not what’s normally used. I’m now happy to report it works great. Continue reading

Chirashi sushi

Chirashi sushiHinamatsuri, or Girls’ Festival, is in Japan something of a spring festival as well as a celebration of girls. Though I know my friends in Canada are still shivering and shovelling, spring is starting to show its face here in England. I saw my first open daffodil today as well as a bunch of little white blossoms, so I’ve been getting into the mood for some springy food.

Chirashi sushi (translates as “scattered sushi;” it’s pronounced chirashi zushi in Japanese) is basically just a layer of vinegared rice with toppings. The toppings generally include sashimi, though it’s certainly possible to make an all-cooked version. Chirashi sushi is one of the traditional foods of Hinamatsuri. These are others too, but clam soup is out in my family because my husband is allergic to shellfish, and I didn’t think it was realistic to obtain the ingredients for sakura mochi (pounded rice cakes coloured pink and wrapped in pickled cherry leaves). Chirashi sushi, however, I could do, and easily.

Chirashi sushi is, in my mind, one of the world’s most perfect dishes. It’s super easy, healthy and incredibly delicious. It’s impressive enough to be used for entertaining or just to make a family dinner feel like a special occasion. The possibilities are endless in terms of exactly what ingredients you use and how. It’s virtually impossible to screw up. Continue reading