27 June 2015

Saffron & pepper fish stew

Well, I can't bleat on about not being able to source fresh fish any more.  Not with a neighbour like Frank, who goes out sea fishing in his little boat and comes back to present us with Plaice and a huge Cod!  It's just as well we had room in the freezer, because it took me a few days to work out what to do with everything!

(It's also just as well that I have a hubby who will gut fish and lop the head off anyone who needs it.  Fish, that is .. not neighbours.  Although there have been moments .. but I digress).

The Plaice - isn't it gorgeous?
Now I have some small experience with filleting a Plaice (two goes, to be exact), so I was pretty much okay with that.  However, filleting a whopping great Cod?  Never done that before.  Well, I can't say that any more and it was actually surprisingly easy.  Thank you Mr Cod, for making it easier than I thought.

I was quite proud of my filleting efforts, even if my second Cod fillet wouldn't have passed Monica Galetti's critical eye.

Beautiful fat and chunky Cod
I had spent some time contemplating what to do with this fish and, rather than a recipe that demanded fillets to be kept whole, I decided to go with a "chunks of fish" recipe, just in case my filleting left a lot to be desired.  As it was, I could easily have gone for a "full fillet" recipe - but I'll know for next time (if there is one!).

I decided to go with a fish stew, as a very good way of making use of randomly shaped pieces of fish - and anyway, I've always wanted to make a fish stew or a fish curry.  I took hubby's advice in the end, and plumped for the stew.

I put the Plaice on top of the thicker Cod so that it wouldn't cook too quickly

I could see in my mind's eye what I wanted - and I got fairly close to it, I think.  The flavour was great - the fully flavoured ingredients didn't overpower the gentle flavour of the fish and the sauce/broth was an intriguing mix of richness and sweetness, with the wine preventing it from going too far into the sweet.

The colours were beautiful and, with some of hubby's delicious home made bread, it really was something out of the ordinary and truly memorable - for all the right reasons.  I knew it was good, when I heard our son comment "Mum, this is SO good!".  Thumbs up, that's the kind of reaction I like.

Not too many Cook's Tips for you with this one, just :

1.  I used a wok to make it in, as I felt it gave more control than a deep saucepan.

2.  Make sure not to allow the garlic to burn, so as not to make it bitter.

3.  Once the fish has been added, make sure to stir gently so as to keep the fish chunks as large as possible.  You don't want fish mash!

I can't recommend this one highly enough.  Quite apart from being exceptionally good for you, it tastes amazing and is fun to eat with the dippy bread.  I suspect that even people who are a bit leery of fish, would like this one - so long as they like saffron!


Ingredients :

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, half chopped finely, half sliced, then quartered
2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
a pinch of sea salt
a half a tsp of ground black pepper
half of a butternut squash, diced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 large vine ripened tomato, diced
a good pinch of saffron threads
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
half a tsp dried parsley
4 strips of orange zest
250ml white wine
250ml water
2 tsp fish stock powder (or sufficient cubes for 500ml liquid)
80g sliced black olives
500g cod fillets, skinned
300g plaice fillets, skinned
lemon quarters for garnish.

Method :

1.  Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan or large wok.  Once good and hot, add the onion, garlic and both peppers with the sea salt and black pepper.  Stir fry over a moderate heat until the onion is transparent and the peppers have softened.  Don't allow the garlic to burn.

2.  Add the butternut squash, fennel and tomato and continue to stir fry until the fennel appears slightly softened.

3.  Add the saffron, bay, thyme, parsley and orange zest and stir to combine.

4.  Add the wine and allow it to frizzle and reduce to around half, stirring throughout.

5.  Add the water and stock powder/cube(s) and stir to combine.  Bring to a lively simmer and cook with a lid on but stirring occasionally, until the saffron colour is well established and the flavours have combined nicely.  Keep tasting the sauce - you will know when it is ready.  Adjust the amount of black pepper, if it requires it.

6.  Remove the lid, add the black olives and stir through.  Continue to simmer until the sauce has reduced significantly and intensified.  Do not allow it to run dry, however!  Taste for seasoning - particularly salt at this stage.

7.  Place the fish on top of the mixture and replace the lid.  Cook on a gentle heat until the fish is almost done, then break it into large chunks and stir in the liquid that it will have produced, taking care not to break up the fish too much.

8.  If the stew is still rather dry, add a little more hot water - bit by bit - until it reaches a nice saucy consistency.

9.  Serve in warmed bowls with chunky bread for dipping and a lemon quarter to squeeze over.

Printable version


  1. What a glorious stew and what a lovely idyllic place you live where fresh fish is caught like that. So lucky xx

    1. We are so lucky to have Frank next door. We swap him our rhubarb and he gives us his extra fish - it's a win:win situation, as he and his wife both love rhubarb but don't garden. :D


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