Squid moqueca

by Ed Smith

A Brazilian sweet and sour fish stew

This dish is traditionally made with white salt water fish like catfish, but I used some squid from the Market, which worked beautifully. Squid is perfect for a stew—slow-cooking ensures the flesh is extremely tender, intensifies the flavour of the squid and infuses the red palm oil-stained coconut milk with that flavour.

The red palm oil is a key characteristic of moqueca. I haven’t yet found it in the Market, but it’s available in larger supermarkets—sometimes called carotino, which is a diluted version. Make sure the oil you use states that it’s ethically sourced. If you find 100 per cent palm oil, mix it with light rapeseed oil in equal parts.

Eat it with rice, probably using a spoon—there’s lots of moreish stock to slurp up.

For more on moqueca, read my blog post on alternative Pancake Day dishes.


600g squid, cleaned
2 limes
50g coriander, washed and picked
150g white onion, finely sliced
2-3 mild red chillies, finely diced
300g red pepper, sliced into fine lengths
2 cloves garlic, pureed
160g tomatoes, diced
1 x 400g tin of rich coconut milk
Red palm oil with rapeseed oil


Ask the fishmonger to clean and open the squid for you. Score the inside of the flesh in cross hatches (if you’re not sure, it’s the softer, wetter bit). Then cut the flesh into approx 6cm squares. Reserve the tentacles and a few pieces of scored body for frying at the end. Season with salt, pepper and the juice of half a lime. Leave for 10-15 mins while you make the rest of the stew.

Finely chop the coriander stalks. Save the leaves for the end.

Put 2 tbsp of red palm oil into a heavy saucepan or casserole and place that on a low-medium flame. Sweat the sliced onion, the coriander stalks and half the diced red chilli. After 3-4 mins, add the sliced pepper and soften for 10 mins.

Add the garlic and cook out for another 1-2 mins. Pour in the creamy coconut milk, then fill the now empty can to half way and pour that in too, along with the tomatoes. Drop the squid in and bring the stew to a low boil. Turn down and simmer for 1 hour.

When the stew is nearly done, put a frying pan on the hottest hob you have. Season the remaining squid and coat in 1 tsp of palm oil. Roughly chop the remaining coriander leaves. Now your pan is hot enough, so throw the squid in and cook it for no longer than 1 min.

Stir half the chopped coriander into the stew and the juice of a whole lime.

Season with lots of salt and pepper.

Serve ladled over rice, garnished with the remaining coriander, diced chilli and a squeeze of juice from the remaining half a lime.

Recipe and image: Ed Smith