For the second installment of our culinary tour of Rio, we visited the leafy neighborhood of Gávea, in the Zona Sul of Rio, and teamed up with Eric Nako and Cristiano Lanna, two young Brazilian chefs who helped us spice up an old Brazilian classic dish. Moqueca is a very popular dish in Brazilian Cooking. It comes from Bahia and has its roots in Africa, as most of Bahian food does. It's usually made by frying onions, peppers and tomatoes as a base, then adding the fish, the fresh coriander, coconut milk and palm oil (dendê) at the last minute. But the clever chaps at Cozinha Criativa taught me a much lighter version, using the same technique used to make the Peruvian dish 'Ceviche', which uses chillies and lemon juice to cook the delicate flesh of white fish.
The result is this wonderful is this wonderfully fresh tasting starter, full of colours and textures, which really awakens the palate and sets you up for a great meal.
The recipe is dead easy to prepare and takes very little 'cooking' time. Although we're using a typical Brazilian fish (the Robalo), any white fish with a firm flesh will do (sea bream, sea bass, halibut, groupa). The only slightly out of the ordinary ingredient is the 'Dendê Oil' (palm oil). I recommend afro-carebean grocers. Here in London, it's quite easy to find as people from Nigeria and Ghana use it a lot.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
600g of white fish with a firm flesh (tilapia, sea bream, sea bass, monkfish)
The juice of 6 limes
½ yellow bell pepper
1 small red onion
2 to 4 red chilis
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
½ cup of chopped coriander (cilantro)
200 ml coconut milk
a couple of dashes of Tobasco
palm oil (Dendê)
Salt and Pepper
250 ml of Cachaça
How to make it:
Cut the fish in small cubes (around 1.5cm square) Chop the onion into fine strips Remove the seeds from the chilies and chop in thin strips Cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters Chop the coriander (stalks, root and all) Save some of the fresh materials aside to garnish the dish later
Mix all the ingredients - apart from the Palm Oil and the cachaça - in a bowl and leave to cure for 5 minutes. After the fish has cured on the outside (flesh turns bright white), drain the marinate using a sieve and save the excess liquid. Server in a shallow cup (like a martini glass) or bowl with a an extra dash of coconut milk, a few drops of Palm Oil and some of the fresh garnish on top.
Mix the reserved marinate juice with the cachaça and serve on a separate martini glass garnished with a small red chili.
We are very grateful to TAP Portugal who flew us down to the Marvellous City in its brand new fleet. We definitely recommend them if you're thinking of going to Brazil as they fly 67 weekly flights to 8 destinations in the country and are frequently more cost competitive than other carriers. Check out www.flytap.co.uk for prices, destinations and availability.
Big thanks also go to Eric Nako and Cristiano Lannas from Cozinha Criativa for being so welcoming and accommodating - especially as it was Eric's birthday.
The tracks in the clip are from Bottletop's Sound Affects - Brazil. Bottletop is wonderful charity who use fashion and music to fund projects which have a positive impact on the health and well-being of young people world-wide. To find out more about their work, where to buy the CD and how to make a donation visit