Quick fish stew among the many wonders of cooking

Matt Powell, from Scarborough, calls himself a “competent home cook”. Photo by Adam Graves

In many ways, cooking is a miracle. Take the lowly potato. It’s pretty useless by itself. But with the right technique, the right temperature, fat and salt, a potato becomes something delicious, whether baked, fried or sauteed.

Another food miracle is how we share recipes. People know I love to cook and love to tell me about a new recipe they’ve discovered. Every once in a while someone will mention that they’ve found out about a new recipe called The Miracle Fish Soup, my recipe. The telephone game is on. The miracle of human communication is incredible. It’s fun to think how recipes are loved, shared and adapted.

This dish is a simplified version of a Brazilian fish stew called Moqueca Capixaba. Stews like this are very popular in Brazil and are made with many different types of fish, including shrimp and scallops. Some recipes also use beef. I’m told there’s actually a holiday to celebrate the dish.

When I first saw a stew recipe in the back of an old Gourmet magazine, I couldn’t believe the timing was right. I said to my wife, “If this is done in the recommended time, it will be a miracle.” In fact, it was ready in time, so the dish became known as the “miracle fish soup”.

The original recipe called for plantains, which I’m not particularly fond of, so I substituted canned cannellini beans. As I recall, this is a much simpler presentation than the original. I can’t find the original recipe, but I bet I wrote some other things down. I never cook anything the same way twice.

Another aspect of the miracle is that you collect all the ingredients in a cold container. This can be done much earlier. When you have people over to eat, you get out of the wine conversation, turn on the pot, let it simmer for 20 minutes, and it’s done. Your guests will think you’ve created a miracle meal since it looks like it came with no preparation and everything came together so quickly. fun!

Miracle Fish Chowder is Powell’s version of a Brazilian stew. Photo by Matt Powell


Portions 6

2 pounds of cod, haddock, or hake

½ cup good olive oil

Juice of 2 limes (at least)

4 cloves (at least) garlic, minced

1 teaspoon (at least) red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, diced with juice

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped

2 cans of cannellini beans with juice

1 cup chopped cilantro

½ cup chopped parsley

Marinate the fish in olive oil, lime juice, garlic and red pepper flakes for at least one hour and up to four.

Put tomatoes in the bottom of a cold pot. Add the onion, peppers and beans. Add fish and pour the marinade into the pot.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and their juices have released and the fish is just cooked through.

Stir in the herbs, reserving some for topping if desired, and serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

THE COOK: Matt Powell, Scarborough

“I consider myself a competent home cook, but I have no formal training. I cook mostly Mediterranean cuisine and also dabble in Asian cuisine. I cook mostly for family and friends (and my wife). My two new favorite tools are my Instapot (beans and stock) and my pans.”

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