Catalan fish stew 

Catalan fish stew 

Ground nuts in this fish stew enrich its smoky tomatoey sauce. The sauce can be made ahead and then the fish added at the last minute just before you want to serve it. Makes life easy! 

Serves 4

  •  4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp crushed dried chillies
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 ½ red peppers quartered lengthways and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 pinches saffron strands
  • 45ml brandy
  • 150g fresh or tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 275ml white wine
  • 125g blanched hazelnuts
  • 700g firm, thick white fish fillets (monkfish, haddock or cod) cut into 5-7cm pieces
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
  • 12 clams
  • 4 large raw prawns – shells on
  • Chopped parsley
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and black pepper

Begin by toasting the nuts. Place them in a baking tray in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until turning golden. Stir them a couple of times so that they brown evenly and make sure you keep an eye on them otherwise they’ll burn. Allow to cool and then grind the nuts in a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. They don’t have to be finely ground, but try to avoid any large lumps.

 In a non-stick wide frying pan that has a lid, heat the oil and then gently fry the garlic slices, dried chilli and bay leaf for about 2 to 3 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden. Then lower the heat and add the sliced onion and red peppers. Gently cook for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are very soft.

 Stir in the smoked paprika and saffron and continue to cook for a couple of minutes so the spices can release their flavours.  

 Add the brandy and boil for a minute or so until nearly evaporated and then add the tomatoes. Continue to cook gently for a further 5 minutes before adding the wine, a few pinches of salt and some black pepper. Cook gently for a further 7-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completely broken down.

 Lower the heat and add the ground toasted nuts to the dish.    

 Now season the pieces of fish with a little salt before pushing them into the sauce, along with the prawns and clams. Cover with a lid. Cook gently for about 5-7 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the shells of the mussels and clams have opened. Test for seasoning before stirring parsley gently through and squeezing the lemon juice over the dish. Serve in bowls with crusty bread.


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