Its African influence can be seen with the addition of coconut milk and dendè oil. Moqueca, although not a grilled dish, can accompany a selection of grilled sides and starters for a South American–style celebration.
It is served here with pirao, a tasty gravy made from the moqueca’s flavoursome stock and thickened with manioc flour.
2kg whole snapper or kingfish, cleaned and scaled, cut into 2.5 cm thick steaks
1 lemon, juiced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons sea salt
300g dried shrimp
400ml tinned coconut milk
2 1/2 cups fish stock
3 large brown onions, sliced into 1.5 cm-thick rounds
5 tomatoes, sliced into 1.5 cm-thick rounds
1/2 green capsicum, seeded and sliced into 1.5 cm-thick rounds
1/2 yellow capsicum, seeded and sliced into 1.5 cm-thick rounds
1/2 red capsicum, seeded and sliced into 1.5 cm-thick rounds
800g raw prawns, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1 cup dende oil, (see note)
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
2 large handfuls coriander leaves, chopped
250g manioc flour
1. To make the moqueca, place the fish steaks in a non-reactive bowl. Add the lemon juice, garlic and sea salt and toss to coat. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Place the dried shrimp in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the coconut milk and blend to combine. Transfer to a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and add the stock.
3. Arrange half of the onion, tomato and capsicum in layers in the base of a large cast-iron or heavy-based saucepan. Arrange the fish steaks and prawns over the top and pour over the marinade. Arrange the remaining onion, tomato and capsicum in another layer over the top and pour over the heated stock mixture and dendè oil. Sprinkle the chilli and coriander over the top, set the pan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily and the prawns have changed colour. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4. To make the pirao, transfer 1¾ cups of the moqueca liquid into a separate saucepan. Stir in the manioc flour to make a thick gravy-like paste. If the mixture is too runny, continue cooking over low heat for 2–3 minutes, or add a little water if it is too thick.
5. Serve the moqueca with the pirao and Brazilian rice.
• Dendè oil is an African oil made from the fruit of the palm tree. It is high in carotene and bright orange in colour. It can be sourced from specialist Latin American, African and Middle Eastern food stores. It creates the characteristic yellow colour of the moqueca.