Cook the World
Approximately once a week, my daughter Grace pick a country from the map and we research the food of that nation and pick a traditional dish that we want to try. We shop and cook together, and maybe even work in a side trip to an ethnic market or food-truck, once in a while.
We post our processes, notes, and maybe a brief anecdote, but mostly it’s about the recipe.
Last time, we visited Australia and roasted an Australian Sunday Lamb roast…it was SO good!
This time, we’re going down under to take a look at Brazil, and a very popular local fish/coconut soup, Moqueca.
NOTE: While the coconut and sauteed veggie flavors really sang in this dish, I wasn’t too impressed with the flavor (or lack of) in the white fish. I’ve read that some versions use salmon instead, and I’ll be trying that soon. Likely give it a quick pan-sear to add some caramelization.
Brazilian cuisine has European, African and Amerindian influences. It varies greatly by region, reflecting the country’s mix of native and immigrant populations, and its continental size as well. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences. Enslaved Africans also had a role in developing Brazilian cuisine, especially in the coastal states, which is where Moqueca originally developed.
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Brazilians have been making Moqueca for at least 300 years.The dish is usually seasoned with onion, tomatoes, coriander, chives, and olive oil.
1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut, swordfish, or cod, rinsed in cold water, pin bones removed, cut into large portions
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped spring onion, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped or sliced
1/4 cup green onion greens, chopped
1/2 yellow and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped (or sliced)
2 cups chopped (or sliced) tomatoes
1 Tbsp paprika (Hungarian sweet)
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
Place fish pieces in a bowl, add the minced garlic and lime juice so that the pieces are well coated. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Keep chilled while preparing the rest of the soup.
Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the bell pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. (At least a teaspoon of salt.)
Cook for a few minutes longer, until the bell pepper begins to soften.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes and onion greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped cilantro and green onion.
Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables (you’ll put them right back in). Spread the remaining vegetables over the bottom of the pan to create a bed for the fish. Arrange the fish pieces on the vegetables.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then add back the previously removed vegetables, covering the fish.
Pour coconut milk over the fish and vegetables.
Bring soup to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need to add more salt (likely), lime or lemon juice, paprika, pepper, or chili flakes to get the soup to the desired seasoning for your taste.
Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice or with crusty bread.