Catalan fish stew
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 200g monkfish, cut into 1-2cm slices on the bone
- 250g sea bream, red or black, scaled and cut like the monkfish
- 100g cleaned squid, cut into 3-4cm chunks
- 250g mussels, debearded and scrubbed, discarding any that refuse to close
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp ground almonds
For the fish soup:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 500g fish (head, tails and all), roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ leek, trimmed, well rinsed and roughly chopped
- ½ fennel bulb, roughly chopped
- ½ red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 small potato (about 125g), peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- a good pinch of saffron strands
- 5 black peppercorns
- 2 juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- 150g chopped tomatoes
- 150ml red wine
- 1.5 litres fish stock
- sea salt and freshly ground black or white pepper
Make the fish soup a day in advance; keep chilled.
For the fish soup, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pot and gently fry the fish, vegetables, garlic, spices and herbs for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, red wine and fish stock. Bring to the boil, season with sea salt and pepper, and simmer for 50 minutes.
Blend about one-third of the soup (bones and all) in a liquidiser. Return it to the pot and simmer gently for another 20 minutes.
Strain the soup by pushing it through a medium-meshed sieve or conical strainer with the back of a ladle, and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, with sea salt and pepper.
You could also serve the fish soup on its own, with some toasted croutons and homemade rouille (spicy saffron-infused mayonnaise) on the side.
To assemble the stew, preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6. Heat the oil in a frying pan, season the fish and lightly fry for a minute or so on each side. Transfer to an ovenproof dish.
Add the squid and mussels, then mix the garlic, parsley and almonds into the fish soup with about 100ml water. Add that to the pot, cover and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
I find the use of a good fish soup for the base (instead of merely fish stock) improves this stew immensely. Serve this as they do in France – with thick slices of bread, grilled and brushed with olive oil and garlic