Some time in August the year before, my South American
friend gave me a little Tupp of some kind of Brazilian seafood stew, moqueca de
camarao. I could smell something good wafting out the Tupp. Yeah...that
was a good moment. Anyway, I opened the Tupp, got a full-on blast of coconutty,
cilantro-scented fragrance edged with a scent that I seriously couldn't quite
put my finger on. A quick eye-over the stew showed me some of the good stuff in
there - perky little shrimp, juicy bits of tomato, garlic and onion, bright
green cilantro etc - but there were these alien streaks of orangey-red grease
floating ominously between the shrimp and garlic. What on earth was
Turns out that that orange grease was red palm oil. I tell you, it had this
unique flavor and fragrance that kicked that stew up several goodly notches!
I did a little research on azeite de dende (that's Brazilian Portuguese
for palm oil), and learnt that used in extensively in certain Brazilian and
African cuisines. It’s also actually the second most consumed oil in the world
after soy oil (Wikipedia is educational!), although not consumed in my part of
the world (). That is actually
kind of ironic, South as produces
learnt too, that real, red palm oil is very good for you. (The bleached,
refined, deodorized hydrogenated palm oil – the trans fat-containing kind that
you find in many processed foods is the kind that’s bad for you and should be
a brief of some of its benefits (you can read Jonny Bowden's 150 Healthiest
Foods on Earth and other health webbies etc for more info) It’s is stuffed with carotenes (precursors to
Vitamin A) and antioxidant tocotrienols (Vitamin E). The reddish orange hue of
azeite de dende comes from the high concentration of these two
substances. With regard to tocotrienols, they’re found most abundantly in
palm oil. Also, palm oil is one of the richest natural plant sources of
carotenoids. It has 15 times more carotenoids than carrots and 300 times more
than tomatoes! Isn't that awesome?!
cobbled together a moqueca de camarao recipe by looking up various recipes on the
Internet and talking to my South American friend. It's mouth-watering, rich,
deep and solidly comforting, like your grandma's hug. (If your nearest South American or American market doesn't stock it, or if you want to go for the organic, virgin version which has the most health benefits, www.tropicaltraditions.com and swansonsvitamins carry organic, virgin red palm oil).
¼ pound whole large shrimp in shell,
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 (14 to15 ounces) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chilli flakes
5 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon of dried parsley.
1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk,
2 ½ tablespoon red palm oil
1. Peel and devein shrimp, saving the shells and heads.
Toss shrimp with black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, garlic, and lemon juice and
marinate, covered and chilled for at least 60 minutes
2. Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender or food
processor until smooth.
3. Place shrimp shells and heads
into the coconut milk, bring to a boil then simmer gently for around 30
minutes. When ready, pour the coconut milk through a strainer to get rid of the
shells and heads. This gives the coconut milk a nice seafood flavor.You could
use fish stock powder, I guess, if you buy shrimp that's already peeled.
3. Cook onion in olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat,
stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chilli flakes, 1 tablespoon
cilantro, and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato
purée and simmer briskly, stirring, until mixture is very thick, about 15
minutes. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil, then add shrimp mixture
(don't drain it) and cook, stirring, until shrimp are just cooked through.
4. Stir in dendê oil and remaining 4 tablespoons cilantro and season with salt
and pepper. Serves 6.