A robust Spanish fish stew from Stevie Parle's fabulous new Dock Kitchen Cookbook. Stevie is one of the best -travelled and most original chefs in London with a well-honed magpie tendency of picking up ingredients and techniques from every country he visits. He also writes a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph.
Catalonian fish stew with mussels (zarzuela)
This Catalonian recipe first caught my eye because of its extraordinary name. A beautiful saffron-laced fish stew, it is baked in the oven with a picada of almonds, garlic, saffron and parsley. Picada is a useful tool, a way to add punch, usually with raw garlic, sometimes paprika or almonds.
Zarzuela is also the name of an operetta or a variety show in Spain; I imagine the name comes from the many kinds of fish in the stew.
500g monkfish tail
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
½ small heart of celery, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp paprika piccante
400g can of whole plum tomatoes, washed of
200ml white wine
50g coarse breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, green sprouts removed
a few sprigs of parsley
pinch of saffron
50g blanched almonds (preferably Spanish)
1 red mullet, filleted
400g wild bass fillet, cut into 4 pieces
200g small, clean rope-grown mussels
If it hasn’t already been done by your fishmonger, pull the skin from the monkfish: you should be able to do this with your hands and the occasional nick with a sharpknife to help you on your way. Cut the fish through the central bone into four pieces.
Fry the onion and celery in a heavy-based pan in olive oil with the bay leaves, thyme and paprika. After about 10 minutes, once the vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes, increase the heat and add the white wine. Simmer for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.
Meanwhile, make the picada. Fry the breadcrumbs in a generous splash of olive oil until golden and crunchy. Crush the garlic with salt, parsley and saffron, add thealmonds and pound until coarsely ground. Add the fried breadcrumbs and set aside while you assemble the dish.
Place the monkfish, red mullet and bass in an earthenware oven tray and pour over the tomato sauce. Add a little water and the mussels, then sprinkle over thepicada. Bake in the hot oven until the fish is easy to flake apart and the mussels open (about 15 minutes).
Serve with a plate of greens or potatoes liberally dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar.
What to drink:
There are several ways to go with this robustly-flavoured dish. My own preference, I think, would be for a dry Spanish rosado from Rioja or Navarra but you could drink an Albarino or even a young red like the increasingly fashionable Mencia or a young (joven) Rioja. Chilled manzanilla sherry would be great too.
You can visit the Dock Kitchen website here - it's a little out of the way but has a great atmosphere and fabulous food. Well worth a visit.
Photograph © Toby Glanville