Fish stew is one of those things that you either love or hate. I personally am one of those people who bring fish-smelling lunch foods to work and everyone complains about how it reeks out the office while I sit there and enjoy my fishy delight. It’s a surprise I have only recently discovered fish stew—at 10 Greek Street. It was my second visit there, and I wanted to try a fish dish. The offer of the day was Catalan fish stew. So delicious it was! The stew was tomato based with potato, white fish, clams, mussels and prawns. All I can say is it was a revelation, and I’ve been craving a good recipe every day since. Then I got myself a copy of Claudia Roden’s latest—The Food of Spain: A Celebration. Claudia Roden’s Arabesque was one of the first cookbooks I ever bought, and everything I tried was, beyond simply being a recipe, a work of food detectivism. Her new book is the ultimate book on Spanish cooking and contains some really amazing stuff. This recipe is adapted from ‘Pepa’s fish soup’. The best element of this recipe is the picada, a paste made from almonds, garlic and fresh parsley added to the broth to give it a lovely texture. Once you try this fish stew I know you’ll also be hankering for more. I adapted the recipe a bit as I wanted to replicate the one from 10 Greek Street, I think I got quite close, but I’ll have to try it out a few more times till I get it right …
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 large or 2 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped
500g waxy potatoes, cut into 1cm-thick slices
1 bulb of fennel, sliced
125ml white wine
350ml fish stock
a generous pinch of saffron
3/4 teaspoon sugar
250g firm white fish fillet (cod, haddock), cut into 2cm chunks
200g raw peeled prawns
For the picada
10 blanched almonds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat the oil in a casserole, add the garlic and the tomatoes. Cook stirring often over a medium heat until the tomatoes are reduced (this should take almost 10 minutes).
2. Add the fennel along with the wine and the stock. Cook for 10 minutes. Then add the potatoes with the saffron, sugar and salt. Simmer, covered, over a low heat for 20 minutes, until the potatoes and fennel are tender. Don’t let the potatoes get too soft or they will disentergrate.
3. In the meantime, make the picada. Fry the almonds with the whole garlic clove in the oil until they look golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Add the parsley, fried almonds and garlic to a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. Then add a ladleful of the stock to dilute it.
4. Put the fish into the stew and 3-4 minutes later add the clams, mussels and prawns and the picada. Cook over a low heat until the prawns are pink.
This recipe was adapted from Pepa’s fish soup from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden (Michael Joseph, 2012)