This classic Mozambican seafood dish typically has a large number of chiles. Since the piri-piri varieties are not available in North America, substitute cayenne or santaka chiles for a hot dish or New Mexican chiles for a milder one. This dish is usually served with dumplings or rice.
Serves: 4 to 6
4 to 5 dried New Mexican red chile pods, seeds and stems removed
One 3-pound whole sea bass, grouper, or baby codfish
1 pound large shrinpm shelled and deveined
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
Salt and freshly gound black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons palm or peanut oil
2 bell peppers, deribbed and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, skinned and pushed through a sieve or food mill
2 red onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 tablespoon ground dried shrimp (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Rehydrate the chile pods by soaking them in a bowl of boiling hot water to cover for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor and set aside.
Clean and eviscerate the fish, leafving the head on and the eyes out. (See if your fishmonger can do this for you.) Wash the fish and lay it in a baking dish. Sorround the fish with the shrimp. Add the lemon juice and water and allow to acidulate for a few minutes. Season the fish with salt and pepper inside and out, and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Over medium heat, heat the oil in a skillet and cook the bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, nutmeg, ground dried shrimp, and the reserved chile puree for 7 minutes. Add the coconut milk, grated coconut, and coriander, and simmer, covered but stirring periodically, for 15 minutes. The sauce should be quite thick.
Place the marinated fish and shrimp in a skillet or baking dish large enough to hold it intact and pour the sauce over. Cover, with foil if you don't have a lid, and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Stir only once, without breaking the fish, then simmer covered, for another 10 minutes or so, until the fish flakes off easily. If the sauce is too thick, add water only as needed in small amounts. Spoon the sauce over the fish when serving.
Recipe provided by Dave Dewitt and Nancy Gerlach.