This is my recipe for Moqueca Baiana – one of the most delicious Brazilian dishes there is. The “Baiana” part of the title means that it comes from the northeastern state of Bahia (there are other versions of moqueca such as Moqueca Capixaba from the state of Espírito Santa for example). The Baiana version includes coconut milk and dendê (unrefined palm oil) which lends a distinctive colour and flavour to this essential dish.
Ingredients (serves approx. 4)
- 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 large (or 2 medium) onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1-2 hot red chilis, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 bunch scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
- 4 large tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
- 300-400ml (1 ½ cups) coconut milk
- Juice of half a lime
- 400g (14oz) shrimps (prawns), white fish, other seafood
- 1-2 tablespoons of unrefined palm oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) roughly chopped
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.
- Fry the onions until softened slightly, then add garlic, ginger and (if using) chilli.
- Stir well and cook for a minute, then add the scallions (spring onions) and red/yellow peppers.
- Fry for a few more minutes until the peppers have softened, then add the tomatoes and stir well.
- Add the coconut milk and mix. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and started to break up (use a wooden spoon to help break them up if necessary).
- Lower the heat so that the sauce is simmering very gently, then add the lime juice and shrimps (or other seafood) and gently mix into the sauce, taking care not to break up the seafood too much.
- When the shrimps/fish/seafood is just cooked (take care not to overcook them), stir in the palm oil. The exact amount that you add will be a matter of taste, so add a tablespoon at a time and stop when you’ve got it to the level you like.
- Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary.
Serve the moqueca over coconut rice and top with a generous sprinkling of chopped, fresh cilantro. If you want to be extra fancy then add one very large shrimp or langoustine (cooked) on top.
If you feel like being really authentic, try making farofa (toasted, buttery cassava flour). For this you’ll just need to melt a 4 tablespoons of butter (or more palm oil) in a saucepan. Once it is hot, add half a finely chopped medium onion and 1 clove garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minutes, then add 2 cups of toasted manioc/cassava flour (see here) which you can order online or pick up from an Asian/Latin/African food store.
Mix in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro and then stir well so that the flour soaks up the butter/oil. Serve separately so people can sprinkle a spoonful or two over their moqueca.