This recipe is loosely based on a Bourride, a Mediterranean fish stew. I wanted a Spanish feel to it, hence the inclusion of pimentón, that wonderful smoked paprika which gives chorizo its fantastic flavour. You could add a few chunks of chorizo to it if you like, but I prefer just using the spice. Alioli is the Spanish version of aïoli – thick garlicky mayonnaise. I was taught to make alioi by a Spanish friend many years ago, so garlic mayonnaise will always be alioli to me. The addition of it to this stew changes the sauce from a broth to a wonderfully creamy, foamy delight.
It would be traditionally served with croutons and/or bread on the side, and some recipes include potato. To make it healthier, more substantial and low carb/GI/paleo friendly, I serve it with buttery swede mash and stir fried broccoli. I’ve included the swede in the recipe below but not the broccoli as you can use whatever green veg you fancy.
This is basically a fairly quick dish to make, in that the cooking time for the fish is brief. The prep takes a while though, so if you want some time saving suggestions, scroll down to the bottom.
This is the first time I’ve done this, but I’ve done a chart here to show you the stages and timings in a simple visual format. I’d love some feedback about whether you find this helpful.
- Roughly 1 kg fish*, the meatier textured ones are better because you want something that’ll hold its shape. I used a mixture of haddock, cod, tuna, salmon and a ray wing, because all of those were on offer.
- Some of that can be seafood if you like – prawns, mussels, calamari or whatever.
- Olive oil
- A leek
- A bulb of fennel/another leek
- A couple of large escallion shallots, or equivalent
- Fish stock or vegetable stock, stock cubes are fine.
- Bay leaves
- Half to one teaspoon of pimentón – Spanish smoked paprika
- Saffron (optional)
- A couple of tomatoes/around 5 small ones
- Alioli/aïoli; Spanish/French garlic mayonnaise. Either homemade or a decent bought one (no helmans!)
Put a heavy based pan/creuset on a low heat with a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil. While that’s heating up, finely chop your shallots. Add them to the pan and give them a good stir.
Chop your leeks quite finely, adding them to the pan as you go. You want the shallots and leeks to cook for at least 10-15 minutes on low to get soft and sweet.
While they’re cooking, put a kettle/pan of water on to boil. Peel and dice your swede, the smaller the dice the quicker they cook, obviously, so I make them quite small. Add the swede to a pan of boiling water, bring to a high simmer with the lid on and boil for around ten minutes until tender.
Put another kettle of water on to boil if you’re using stock cubes. Slice the fennel if using, and add it to the pan with the tomatoes (whole if small ones, roughly chopped if medium/large). Finely chop the feathery fronds from the fennel bulb, if there are any, and add those in too. Add a generous glass of white wine and the thyme, and turn the heat up to reduce it down a bit.
Make up around 600ml of stock and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer. I added the ray wing at this point, let it cook for around five minutes then took it out and removed all the flesh, which comes cleanly away from the skeleton with a knife. I then added the bony fan back into the stock to impart more fishy flavour.
Let the sauce reduce down a bit for ten minutes or so. Meanwhile skin (if you prefer) and chop your fish into generous chunks. Not too small or they’ll lose their shape in the stew.
Drain the swede, reserving a bit of the water and putting it back into the pan on a low heat. Put the swede in a bowl with plenty of butter and black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Mash it by hand or puree it with a stick blender. Put the bowl over the pan with the simmering water in and cover it to keep warm.
Remove the ray wing from the stock, if you used it. Remove and reserve about three ladles full of stock. Add the fish and pimentón (and the saffron if using) to the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Depending on which fish you used, add the ones with the longer cooking times first. I found that the tuna, cod and salmon held their shape very well whereas the haddock flaked more. If the stock doesn’t cover the fish, add a bit more. The fish should only take 5 minutes or so to cook.
Put some alioli in a bowl or pan and gradually whisk in the reserved stock. It’ll become beautifully creamy and foamy. Add this into the stew, give it a stir and let it thicken slightly for a couple of minutes. Don’t let it boil or it’ll split. Add the ray flesh as well if you used it.
Serve with the mashed swede and the veg of your choice.
I know that when you’ve just come home from a day at work, you don’t always want to spend hours preparing a meal. Here are a couple of time saving suggestions for this recipe.
Make your swede mash ahead. I often make a large bowlful of swede mash or bubble and squeak (swede and brussels sprouts) at the weekend/beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge. Then I can use it as and when I need it I – just reheating/gently frying it without having to faff about peeling, dicing, boiling, mashing etc.
Chopping shallots. You could whizz them in a food processor – not too long though or they’ll end up as puree – or chop in bulk (swimming goggles optional) and freeze in batches. Incidentally, my tip for chopping shallots (or onions) is thanks to the gorgeous Richard Bertinet… chop the top end of the shallot off but not the root end (this is where the greatest concentration of eye-watering chemicals are). Peel the shallot down to the base. If you want diced shallots, make a horizontal cut lengthwise through the shallot, almost to the base (root end). Then chop the shallot from the top end as you would normally do, working towards the base.
The fish. Get the fishmonger to skin the fillets for you. If you’re really lazy you could ask them to dice it too.
If you’re more of a morning person, cook the recipe up until the point you add the fish then cool and leave for later. Bring the stew back to a simmer and all you’ve got to do is add in the fish and whisk up the alioli and stock mixture. You could even do it the night before and stick it in the fridge.
*A note on sustainability.
It can be hard to keep up with which fish are sustainable, endangered, toxic due to heavy metal accumulation/radiation pollution, overfished etc. I buy my fish from Waitrose supermarket because I have confidence in their ethical and sustainability policy. A good fishmonger or supermarket should be able to tell you about the provenance of the fish that you’re buying.