Sometimes spelled ~Muqueca~ This is an excellent regional dish from the state of Espirito Santo in Brazil. The locals insist this is the only true version. People from the state of Bahia say theirs is the only true version. Try both and decide which you like best. If you don't like coriander, try it with parsley, but it won't be the same thing at all. But it could be good, haven’t tried it with parsley.
To make the Bahian version, which has a strong West African influence, just add 15 cl of unsweetened coconut milk to the paste, and subsitute dende (palm oil) for the annatto oil on top before cooking, but not on the bottom, use olive oil there. Watch out for the palm oil if you are not used to it. It can have a “cleansing” effect on some people. It does add a distinctive taste and smell, though,
You will need.
• 1 kg of firm fish fillets (bass, snapper, etc) You can also use peeled shrimp or any shellfish
• 2 bunches of spring onions, coarsely chopped
• 2 bunches of coriander, with roots if possible, coarsely chopped.
• 1 large onion, sliced, 1 cm slices
• 5 cloves of garlic (always odd numbers with garlic)
• 4 tomatoes, peeled & sliced 1 cm thick.
• Olive oil
• 2 cc Annatto, ground. (achiote) (Mexican section of the supermarket)
• Malagueta pepper (small bird peppers) Or any hot pepper sauce.
Then you need to:
Wash the fish well and leave it in a bowl in cold acidulated and salted water. Place the garlic, half of the onion, half of the coriander and half of the spring onion and a little salt in a mortar and reduce to a pulp. (or use an immersion blender)
Now, you ideally need a clay dish for this. In Brazil they use a shallow baked clay baking dish. If you don't have one, use a fairly shallow pyrex dish. Or - here's a good use for that Romertopf that has been in the back of the cupboard for 10 years, just leave the cover off. Don't use a metal pot or dish. Pour some oil (a lot, say 15 cl) into the bottom of the dish and spread it around.
Now add the paste from the mortar and spread it around. Take the fish out of the water, shake it dry and spread them in one layer in the dish. OK, turn them over, still in one layer. Add the rest of the coriander, the green onion, the tomato on top of the fish, in that order.
Pour some more olive oil on top. Cover with a cloth and leave the whole thing to stand for about 60 minutes. In the meantime heat the achiote in a little olive oil for 5 minutes and strain. You will have a reddish-brown oil.
Heat the oven to 350° C. Pour the achiote oil on top and place the dish, uncovered, in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Do not stir at all, just shake the dish once or twice during the cooking. Check for salt, and that's it.
This goes well with white rice, and serve hot peppers or hot sauce on the side. and is traditionally served with something called "pirão", which is fish stock mixed with manioc flour and which looks and tastes like glue. You don't want to even think about that.
Serves 4. Of course you will need a Caipirinha to drink with this.
Oh, and Alexander, as you virtually threw down the glove for the definitive chili, I'm up for it, watch this space.