One of my favourite dinner party recipes at the moment is this fish stew. Actually, I am not sure I should call it that since a stew immediately makes you think of something that a) is comforting, but also rich in calories and nothing for the
cholesterol-conscious (although recent research seems to indicate that
it is actually the carbs that are to be blamed for raised cholesterol, not
protein) and b) sits on the stove top for hours. This certainly is neither: light and summery in taste, very healthy due to abundant use of fennel, onion, tomatoes and herbs, and best of all, it involves about 30 minutes cooking, most of which can be done very much in advance. Which means that you can enjoy your guests and a mere five or so minutes before you're ready to eat, you re-heat and put all the fish and seafood in, leave to cook for five and voila!
So if it isn't a stew, watchamacallit? A bouillabaisse? It doesn't have the traditional eight types of fish, for starters, nor are there any celery or leeks. No rouille, although I have had bouillabaisse with aioli before, so that might just pass. What about the ground almonds, then? I have seen a similar recipe recently using chickpeas instead of the fish and Melissa called them "catalán" chickpeas. Not sure whether the fennel, tomato and almond sauce does indeed hail from Cataluña, so I'll keep referring to it as "the magical, wonderful plate of monkfish and clams" that I first had at Skye Gyngell' s Petersham Nurseries Restaurant . I bought her cookbook shortly after lunching there not too long ago and can report that it is a great book that really epitomises her cooking style. Bold flavours achieved with only the best and freshest ingredients - and recipes that you can easily make at home without major headaches. I will slowly be cooking my way through it (with the usual aberrations and adaptations) and you can be my guests... virtually at least!
I publish this recipe as a contribution to Ilva and Joanna's "Heart of the Matter", a monthly event where healthy and heart-friendly recipes are called for. This month's theme are fish dishes - and you may go easy on the aioli, if you're so inclined...
Other heart-friendly fish dishes on thepassionatecook:
Roast monkfish with fennel, orange and capers (June 2007)
Shrimp & coriander fillo parcels (April 2006)
Scallop carpaccio à la Robuchon (January 2006)
Sesame salmon in orange & miso sauce with pineapple pak choi (January 2005)
Quick spaghetti with prawns & pesto (May 2004)
Catalán monkfish & clam "stew" or mock "bouillabaisse"*
4 tbsp olive oil
2 large red onions (thinly sliced)
1 good pinch saffron threads
250 ml boiling water
2 fennel bulbs (touch bits removed and thinly sliced)
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
3 pepperoncini (crushed) - more to liking
4 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 dash sherry vinegar
250 ml Noilly Prat (own addition)
2 cans(440 g) chopped tomatoes
100 g blanched almonds (toasted and coarsely ground)
1 kg monfish (cleaned, filleted and cut into 3-cm cubes)
10 mussels (own addition)
For the aioli (own recipe):
2 egg yolks
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp German mustard
lemon juice (to taste)
salt, white pepper
200 ml vegetable oil (a mild olive oil or maize/peanut oil)
Infuse the saffron threads in the boiling water.
Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions and fry gently until soft. Add the fennel, garlic, pepperoncini, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir thoroughly, then deglaze with the sherry vinegar and Noilly Prat. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the saffron water, tomatoes and almonds and cook for another 20 minutes, over a low heat.
For the aioli, combine the yolks, garlic and seasoning by whisking gently. In an incredibly slow pour, continuously add the oil, whisking vigorously until the mayonnaise is mounting. From there on you can increase the stream a little. Beat until thoroughly combined, then adjust the seasoning.
When ready to serve, (reheat as necessary, then) add the monkfish, clams and mussels. Put a lid on and cook vigorously for about 4-5 minutes, until the shells have opened - the monkfish should be done at the same time.
Serve with the aioli and fresh bread.
* Adapted from a recipe in Skye Gyngell's "A Year in my Kitchen"