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Carlo Xavier’s Brazilian Mariscada

Melbourne based selector & food entrepreneur Carlo Xavier has a long entangled history in the food and music industry. From a young age sweating it out in commercial kitchens developing his education for gastronomy and an ear for otherworldly sounds on the restaurant floor and at home growing up in a very multicultural family of Portuguese/Macanese & English migrants. Carlo has under his apron, owned and operated his own successful additions to the culinary world all whilst serving tasteful selections to dancefloors all over Australia and Brazil. With strong family ties to Brazil it’s been a dramatic love affair with his second home the last 11 years and nurtured connections with record label Analog Africa, harvesting co curation duties of Analog Africa’s Brazilian releases, Siria, Camarao & Jambu compilations. A world without good food and music is hard to imagine and should never be taken for granted.

His mariscada was an obvious choice. Carlo has been cooking that dish since his wife’s childhood friend’s dad showed him how to cook it in Bahia 11 years ago. It was the first Brazilian dish he learnt to cook. You can take this recipe base and use just about any seafood you like, octopus or crab, for example, are his favourites. 

 

Mariscada do Sotero (Baiana mixed seafood stew)

Serves 5 people

Ingredients:

The Stew

1.5kg – Mix of local seasonal fish cutlets bone in, something firm if possible, shell fish & peeled prawns.
(Sweeter varieties if possible remember this is a tropical dish)
2 under ripe almost green tomatoes 1 diced the other sliced (heritage if possible)
1.5 litre of coconut cream 2 tbsp of fresh ginger grated
4 tbsp of dende/palm oil Large bunch of fresh cilantro + extra to serve
1 large green capsicum cut into rings Half bunch of chives
1 large white onion diced A mix of fresh aromatic green chilli and malagueta/hot chilli to taste
½ head of fresh garlic Juice of 2 limes
Salt to taste Lime wedges to serve

 

The Vatapa

Few slices of old bread

Coconut cream to cover

Cup each of toasted peanuts and cashew nuts

Around 50g of ginger (you want it to hum ginger)

4 tbsp dende/palm oil

Salt to taste.

 

Farofa de Dende

3 cups of coarse toasted Cassava flour or Gari

4 garlic cloves

4 tbsp of dende/palm Oil

Salt to taste

 

Side of Rice

2.5 cups of Basmati rice

Half brown onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of olive oil

Salt to taste

Notes:

If you’re having trouble finding the cassava flour and dende oil (key to the vibrant colour of this dish), this can be easily found in your local Ghanain or African grocer depending where in the world you are. The Ghanaians call the flour, Gari.  I actually prefer this to the exported Brazilian versions from Yoki which have this horrible pre-seasoned flavour as the flour is sold ready to eat.  If you want to be a purist you can blend the Gari dry to get the super fine Baiana version for a nice touch. 

Method:

Begin by making a paste from the garlic, ginger, lime, cilantro, chives, chilli peppers and salt to taste either in a mortar & pestle or blender.  Marinate the seafood with this paste reserving 2 tbsp for a sofrito to start the stew. Before beginning the stew, soak the old bread in coconut cream and reserve. Next, start your rice, sweat the onion and garlic on a low heat then add your rice and continue to dry fry for a minute, season well then add enough water to cover the rice so that touching the rice with your thumb, the water reaches just above your thumbnail.  Cover and cook on the lowest heat until the water is completely absorbed. Take off the heat and do not lift the lid.

Now start your sofrito for the stew.  Heat the dende oil preferably in a clay pot or a heavy-based cast-iron Dutch oven on a low to medium heat, add the diced tomato & onion along with your reserved paste till the onion has sweated seasoning as you go then add the green capsicum rings, cook briefly then add the coconut cream.  Cover and leave that to develop on a low heat. 

In the meantime finish your Vatapa, the bread should be soft, blend this with the ginger, the toasted nuts and dende oil to a smooth paste, add more coconut milk or water to loosen the mixture up then season to taste, the ginger should be punching through in the mix (this is the secret to good Vatapa) From there, transfer to a frying pan and cook out the moisture gently with a little more dende oil, the mixture should end up glossy and smooth and very orange in appearance. Once this is achieved, add the Vatapa paste to the Mariscada and stir to combine. 

Before we finish the Mariscada, toast your farofa de dende.  Gently fry the garlic in the dende oil and before it browns add your cassava flour and toast it, salt to taste.  If you’re feeling like you’re overdoing the dende oil, it can be very strong and you may pay for it the next day you can replace this step with butter instead of the dende oil but be warned, the less dende you use the less Baiana this dish is.

By now your stew should have developed nicely and should have an orange/yellow slick and oily sheen to it so let’s finish off the Mariscada. First add the tomato slices, once they begin to melt it’s time for the seafood. You can do this 2 ways, either drop your fish steaks or cutlets directly into the stew but bear in mind that your fish will take longer to cook, then add the prawns and shellfish until the shells open. My preferred way is to flash fry the seafood on a hot skillet very quickly in some dende oil then finish off in the stew this caramelises the seafood slightly and deepens the flavours. Hot tip! Do not throw everything into the skillet at once, it will cool the pan down too quickly and leech the moisture out of the seafood, flash fry quickly in batches just to seal the seafood and give some colour. Reserve the batches till all your seafood is sealed then add with the juices to the stew, fish first, once fish is almost perfect add the rest of the seafood and take off the heat. It will continue to cook in the hot stew.

At this stage, you are ready to serve, the sooner the better so the seafood remains perfectly moist.

Serve everything at the table and garnish the Mariscada with loads of cilantro and some lime if you like.

Cilantro is also a super important flavour in Baiana food, would be sacrilege to not use it or not use enough!

Enjoy with your favourite hot sauce on the side and some wedges of lime.

Axé, meu povo!