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Recipe: Moqueca fish stew

Moqueca fish stew from Bahia

Moqueca fish stew from Bahia

As part of my attempt to fool myself into thinking I’m on holiday, I am having a dish a day from holidays past.

Brazil had the most amazing food, in fact pretty much everything about Brazil was amazing.

I had some of the best fish stews there and if you like prawns there are loads of shrimp dishes to try.

This fish stew is called moqueca and from the northern state of Bahia, it incorporates coconut milk which gives it a very distinctive flavour.

You can serve this dish with rice or if you are pressed for time you can simply serve it with crusty bread.

Moqueca fish stew

Serves 4


The soup

  • 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut or cod, rinsed in cold water, bones removed, cut into large portions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 5 spring onion, chopped
  • ½ yellow and ½ red  pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 large bunch of coriander, chopped with some set aside for garnish
  • 400g can coconut milk

The rice

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 250ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. 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.
  2. If you are planning on serving the soup with rice, start on the rice. Bring the water to a boil. Heat one tbsp of olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Add the chopped ½ onion and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the raw white rice and stir to coat completely with the oil, onions, and garlic. Add the boiling water. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes, after which, remove from heat until ready to serve with the soup.
  3. Back to the soup. In a large covered pan, coat the bottom with about 2 tbsp of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add the chopped spring onion and cook a few minutes until softened. Add the pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes longer, until the pepper begins to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the chopped coriander.
  4. Use a large spoon to remove about half of the vegetables. 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.
  5. 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, lime or lemon juice, paprika, pepper, or chili flakes to get the soup to the desired seasoning for your taste. Garnish with coriander.

One Comment

  1. Thanks so much for this recipe. Got to Bahia this year and this helped to re-create the flavour!