The moqueca works best with a firm white fish, such as sea bass, halibut, cod or cobia. Those fish are usually expensive on the market and if you are looking for a more budget friendly alternative, look no further. Today I will be showing you how to make this amazing Brazilian dish utilizing a freshwater fish called tilapia.
Photo from Blog da Leili (https://www.leiliane.com.br/about/)
I would recommend you try to avoid delicate fish such as small flat fish (dabs, sole, etc.) or oily fish (salmon and tuna) because those can get mushed or release all of their fat in the stew and become dry. To take your moqueca to the next level, make sure you add some shrimp to it. See tips at the bottom on how to do it!.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6 people)
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 tablespoon of salt
1 lime, juice squeezed
1 piece of ginger ½ inch (1 cm)
1 Fresno chili pepper (with seeds if you want spicy, without otherwise)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ripe tomato, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves
For the moqueca:
1kg (2.2 lb) of tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 ripe tomatoes
2 medium onions
1 handful of cilantro (I am not a fan but the original recipe uses it)
2 yellow bell peppers
2 garlic cloves
200ml (6.5 fl oz) of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of Dende oil (Hard to find in the US. It works fine without it)
Start by preparing a paste to season the fish: in a food processor or small blender, combine all the ingredients of the seasoning and grind well to form a coarse paste (add a little water to help, if necessary).
Place the fish fillets in a serving dish and use half the paste to season it, rubbing the mixture over all the slices (the rest of the paste will be used in the moqueca). Cover the dish and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Cut the garlic, onions, tomatoes and bell peppers into very small cubes. Cut the cilantro finely (reserve some whole leaves to finish).
Place a deep pan (I like to use a Dutch Oven or a thick-bottom pan that helps preserve the heat) over medium heat, add the olive oil and the rest of the paste you prepared to season the fish. When it starts frying, add the chopped onion and garlic. Let it sauté until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes and yellow bell peppers; stir well and increase the heat. When it starts to boil, lower the heat a little, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes and peppers are soft and the sauce is full-bodied.
At this point add the coconut milk and Dende oil (add just the coconut milk in case you don’t have the oil) to the sauce and mix. Add the fish fillets, well distributed inside the sauce. Include the slices of tomatoes, onions, peppers and chopped cilantro. When it starts to boil again, cover and let it cook for 15-20 minutes, until the fish is cooked and juicy (the fish usually cooks very fast, so stay tuned, because if you overcook it, it gets dry).
Your moqueca is ready! Add cilantro leaves to decorate. Serve with white rice, Pirão (Shown on the left upper corner of the picture above; it’s a creamy manioc side dish typically served with moqueca; made with moqueca broth, manioc flour, and spices), and hot sauce.
Hot Tip: How to prepare shrimp so they preserve their size and juiciness, and how to add it to your moqueca!
3.3 lb (1.5kg) of cleaned shrimp (no shells or heads, and cleaned intestines)
1 shallow tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper to taste
Lemon zest from 1 large lemon
Preheat the oven at 400 F (200 C) - I like using convection roast function!
Place the cleaned shrimp in a large mixing bowl
Add in the salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon zest
Mix everything with your hands, making sure the ingredients are evenly mixed and adhered to the shrimp
Place the seasoned shrimp on a large baking sheet, making sure they have enough space from one another to cook thoroughly
Place the sheet in the oven for 8 minutes or until the shrimp are lightly browned on the outside
Add the shrimp and their delicious juices to the stew 5 minutes before its ready and enjoy!