This French Sicilian fusion fish stew has a real fresh and deep flavour that's sure to warm your cockles right the way through.
I'll be honest with you, it does take a while to prepare, but it's all quite simple and straightforward and the time is well rewarded.
A variety of fish will work well here, just be careful with oily fish like mackerel that will dominate it. I've chosen salmon, plaice, mussels and a langoustine each (as much for their prettiness as for their taste).
You could use any white fish, prawns, squid and tuna, and the more exotic white fishes such as mahi mahi or talapia would also be excellent, see what looks good on the day and better still - what might be reduced as then you can perhaps splash out a bit more (no pun intended).
The mussels of course don't only provide their meat, they are a stock in themselves and I use these in this stew to create the much needed fish stock, far easier than cooking down shells and heads.
Right then, onto the dish...
Fish stew for four:
2 large skinless salmon fillets, cut into large cubes (salmon thats nice and fatty is best here rather than a wild and very lean fish)
4 skinless plaice fillets, cut into large pieces
1 net of mussels, cleaned and ready to use
1 squid cut into rings (this is to help flavour the stock)
1.5 tins of tomatoes (I used tinned cherry for extra sweetness but its not essential)
2 tins borlotti beans, don't drain them we want the starchy water they're held in
6 large ripe tomatoes finely diced
2 fennel bulbs, sliced as finely as you can on a mandolin
2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
6 shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 bottle of white wine, I used pinot grigio but any other dry fresh white will work
A pinch of saffron (not essential if you don't have any at home)
A pinch of dried chili flakes
2 teaspoons capers
1 tablespoon sugar
A handful each of fresh basil and parsley, finely chopped (just before they're needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Unsalted butter for frying
- In a large pan sautee the carrot, celery and shallots until translucent (not golden), once translucent after around 10 minutes turn the heat up to its highest
- Add the saffron, squid and cleaned mussels to the pan and add 3/4 of the white wine, clamp the lid on the pan and cook covered for around 6 minutes, shaking occasionally so make sure all the mussels get coated in the liquor
- When the mussels have all opened they're ready, remove the pan from the heat and strain the contents through a sieve catching all the cooking liquor in another pan for use later
- When the mussels are cool enough to handle remove them from their shells, but leave around 10 still in their shells as I think these help with the presentation of the dish, set them aside for later
- Preheat your oven to 100 degrees and put your serving dish and lid in to warm through
- Take a large sautee pan or saucepan (must have a lid) and add a generous glug of olive oil and a knob of butter with the pan on a medium high heat
- When it begins to foam add the red onion and cook for around 5 minutes until it begins to turn golden, then add the garlic and fennel and continue to cook for around 5 minutes
- Add the chopped and tinned tomatoes, capers, lemon juice, sugar, remaining white wine and liquor the mussels were cooked in, stir thoroughly and put the lid on the pan, turn the heat to low and cook for around 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes remove the lid from the pan and add the borlotti beans in their water, stir to combine and cook for 10 minutes uncovered
- Now add all the fish to the pan (which should be lightly simmering) and cover, cooking for 2 minutes - this doesn't sound like a lot of time but the fish will continue to cook in the hot liquor once it's off the heat and in the serving dish
- While it's cooking remove the empty dish and its lid from the oven ready to decant the stew into
- After the fish has been poaching for a couple of minutes add the fresh basil and parsley
- Carefully pour the stew (or it could be easier to ladle it in depending on the size and shape of your pan) into the serving dish that you took out of the oven
- Put the lid on the serving dish and serve it at the table along with a nice bottle of vino, red or white both work nicely