Moqueca is a quintessentially Brazilian dish, with nearly every seaside town having its own variation on the theme. In Bahia, they add an African element to the dish in the form of dendê oil. Derived from the palm tree, this bright orange oil has a very special flavour for which there is no substitute. Moqueca is very easy to prepare, and you can substitute prawns with small fillets of fish or other types of seafood. I love serving this moqueca over Japanese rice flavoured with coriander and lemon rice, as in this donburi recipe.
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 750g large fresh prawns, peeled and deveined (reserve 2 whole prawns for presentation)
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 lemon, juice
- 400g tinned Italian tomatoes including juice
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 400ml coconut milk
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp dendê oil (palm oil – available from Brazilian or African food shops)
- 2 tbsp coriander cress
- Maldon sea salt
For the coriander rice:
- 1 ½ portions of steamed rice (see recipe on page XXX)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp Maldon sea salt
- 8 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
- ½ lemon, juice and zest
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Prepare the Japanese steamed rice by following the recipe on page XXX. Once the rice is cooked and before fluffing it, make a green coriander salsa by mixing in a bowl the extra virgin olive oil, salt, juice and fine zest of a lemon, crushed garlic cloves and finely chopped coriander. Fold the coriander salsa well into the cooked rice.
- In a bowl, add the prawns, the light soy sauce, the lemon juice and garlic, mix well, cover and marinade for 15 minutes.
- Blend the tinned tomatoes with their juices in a food processor, pass through a sieve discarding any seeds or skin.
- In a medium-sized cast iron pan, fry the chopped onion on a low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, 2 teaspoons of Maldon sea salt and the tomato purée and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the reserved whole prawns in a little olive oil until pink, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the prawns warm.
- Now stir in the coconut milk and finely chopped red chilli to the thickened tomato sauce, bring to the boil, then add the prepared prawns and its marinade, and cook until the prawns have gone lightly pink, about 1 minute. Stir in the dendê oil, turn off the heat and check for seasoning.
- A classic Japanese donburi is a bowl of steamed rice with a topping of meat, fish or vegetables. For this dish, however, I like serving the moqueca de camarão placed around the rice rather than over it. Lightly grease a rice bowl with a little oil, fill it with rice and press it down so that the rice is lightly compressed. Turn the rice bowl onto the middle of a serving plate and remove the bowl. Spoon the moqueca de camarão around the mound of coriander rice adding plenty of sauce, place the whole prawns on the plate finishing with a scattering of coriander cress. Serve immediately.