The spray from the waves crashing onto the sand sweeps a haze across the distant beach. Lights flicker lazily, on and off in the hills, as the mist shifts, wafting the tang of ozone and salt as it dances across the sand. A drummer beats out a samba rhythm on a homemade drum as he sways between the restaurant tables, smiling and gently humming as he goes. The surfers, burnished muscles rippling, come and go, wet suits turned down at the waist, boards nonchalantly slung under one arm. This is Ipanema! This is Rio!
The bright hot sun of summer has given way to a gentler warmth as the season shifts from Autumn to winter. Still warm enough for riding the waves and catching a tan but kinder than the frazzle of summer. Mr Glam and I watch Rio sashay by as we sit sipping our wine, waiting for the sun to set into an orange, pink blur behind the rocks. Gradually the the surfers leave, the beach footballers wrap up and the shoppers scurry home with their Havianas and handbags. Until it’s just us on the beach, waiting for the delight of our Bahian Fish Moqueca.
Bahian food comes originally from the enslaved Africans in Brazil and takes influence from Portuguese dishes with African herbs and spices, often including seafood, coconut milk, Okra and bananas, cooked in Dende (palm oil) which gives it it’s telltale orange colour. This stew, sweet with onions and just cooked tomatoes, has chunky fish, a sprinkling of prawns and the ubiquitous coconut milk. Served with rice it’s an easy, very tasty dish to share.
Fish Stew Rio Style (Moqueca)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 15g (1 tablespoon) butter
- 2 large onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 finely sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 x 400ml (1 and 3/4 cups, less 1 tablespoon) cans of coconut milk
- 400ml (1 and 3/4 cups, less 1 tablespoon) water
- 800g (1 and 3/4 lbs) cod loin (Tilapia, sea bass)
- 200g (7 oz) raw prawns
- 200g (7oz) spinach leaves
- 200g (7oz) sugar snap peas
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced
- 25g (3/4oz) parsley, finely chopped
- In a large pan, heat the oil and butter, add the finely chopped onions into the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, until translucent, then add the garlic and cook until soft.
- Add the coconut milk and water to the pan and stir to combine, then add the fish, and the sliced onions, cook for 10 minutes. Do not stir.
- Add the prawns, spinach, sugar snap peas and sliced tomatoes
- Place a lid on the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the prawns are pink and the spinach wilted
- Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with rice
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