Catalan-style fish stew

A holiday always leaves a cook feeling inspired and a  rich squid stew in a restaurant in L’Escala set my mind racing about making my own version, with added pork. Before that experiment though, it was time to get some practice in the ways of a traditional Catalan stew.

The beginning  is a sofrito – tomato sauce cooked long and slow to develop character and sweetness. I cheated on this and used a jar I had from Brindisa because, well, I had it. In this I simmered some squid pieces until tender. For my white fish, I scored a bargain on some monkfish cheeks at Moxon’s in East Dulwich. I asked for the cheapest firm white fish in the shop and that’s what he produced – big meaty chunks at a fraction of the price of the tail (I got 300g for a few quid). On the shellfish front, I dropped in a giant prawn per person and then clack, clack, clack as I stirred in some fiercely barnacled mussels.

At the end the stew is thickened with a picada – a mixture of breadcrumbs, garlic and toasted ground almonds. Such a magical combination. The garlic remains punchy yet not raw and the ground nuts enrich the broth, the breadcrumbs swell and thicken. A final squeeze of lemon at the table and a torn hunk of bread for scooping and it’s time to slurp, shell and mop. One of the most complex and delicious dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Catalan style fish stew

300g firm white fish (I used monkfish cheeks), cut into bite size chunks
200g mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 giant prawn per person
250g squid, slices into rings and tentacles roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 large onion, sliced
A handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
1 315g jar of sofrito or you can make your own
1 litre fish or vegetable stock

Lemon wedges, to serve
Bread, to serve

For the picada

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 slice dry white bread, made into crumbs
50g almonds, lightly toasted

Begin by sweating your onion in some groundnut or vegetable oil in a heavy based large pan. Cook it on a low heat for 20 minutes at least until the onions are very soft. Add your jar of sofrito plus the stock, paprika and squid and bring to a gentle simmer. Put a lid on and let cook gently for about an hour.

For the picada, pound all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar until as smooth as possible.

Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the picada just before you add the remaining fish for the final few minutes of cooking. My prawns were very large so I added those for 2 minutes, plus the white fish and mussels for another 3 minutes. Garnish with the parsley and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

Category: Fish, Seafood, Soups, Stews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , 7 comments »

7 Responses to “Catalan-style fish stew”

  1. Becky

    Gorgeous sounding and looking. Bargain on the monkfish. I definitely need a trip to the fish stall in the market this weekend. Had a fish stew a few weeks ago made with mackerel and mussels very strong tasting but nice ( love your clack clack -clack description)

  2. Lizzie

    Gorgeous stuff. I’ve never heard of a picada; it sounds like an ideal flavour-giving thickener.

    VERY excited about your pork squid stewy thing.

  3. Sharon

    Wow this looks fantastic – there’s nothing like a good fish/seafood stew! Am now going to try and get monkfish cheeks from my local fishmonger; monkfish is one of my favourites, especially in stews and curries, but it’s so expensive that I rarely cook with it. This could be the answer to my monkfish craving! :) Great post.

  4. Anthony

    This sounds amazing. I keep meaning to go to Moxon’s but somehow never quite make it (the shame! the guilt!). Perhaps this will finally get me through their door.

  5. Bron

    Look forward to the version with added pork. Everything is better with added pork.

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  7. Anna Johnston

    Nice! like the addition of pork, really riches it up a notch.

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