Hello friends. Long time no chat. It had to happen eventually though, right? A new post? Here it is!
So 2015…. not my best year for blogging. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to find a single soul to disagree. But that’s the lovely thing about life right? We get to start again. Let’s put 2015 blogging in past and move forward shall we? It might take a bit to get back into the swing of things but I will. Like riding a bike and all, right? I think so, but please stick with me until my writing gets a bit less clumsy. And wait until you get a look at these photos!! Shocking!!!!
I’m going to wing it today ok? Seems I’ve logged back in and my recipe format is no longer available and all sort of other formatting craziness is going on. Let’s see if I can figure this all out. I’m going to start simple and we’ll see where it goes.
I admit, I had to get reacquainted with my camera. Find the battery charger. Dust it off. I’m also not cooking in my own kitchen at the moment so I had to ad-lib quite a bit! The appliances are great but to say it nicely, the rest of the kitchen is really ill equipped (and yes, that’s being nice). Just goes to show, where there’s a will there’s a way!!
Let’s dive in to the recipe. I wanted something comforting and warm but something that wasn’t over the top glutinous or so rich that I’d end up in a food coma. Fish stew is the perfect option. It is pretty quick to make especially if you already have some fish stock on hand. I did not. This stew is light but very satisfying in flavor. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is bold but you’ll keep digging in for all the little gems of fish and seafood and the fresh spinach at the bottom of the bowl. I’m seriously thinking about reheating leftovers right now!
Off to the markets I went! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fish Stock
- Fish heads (1 kilo/a couple pounds – 4 heads maybe) – I was able to get a whole barramundi, head and bones only
- 3 or 4 head on prawns per person (head and shells for the stock – reserve the prawn meat for later)
- 1/2 carrot rough chopped – don’t bother peeling or discarding the end
- 1/2 small onion – cut into four pieces – leave the skin on
- 1 garlic clove smashed
- green tops of one leek
- 5 or 6 whole black peppercorns
- Fish Stew
- Olive Oil
- 1 small shallot thinly sliced
- 1/2 white potion of a small leek
- Thinly sliced fennel
- Dry white wine
- Fish stock (1 cup + per person)
- 1 kilo/2 pounds live mussels
- 1 small fish fillet per person – white meaty fish preferred. I used flake I believe.
- Lemon – zest and juice
- Dill – chopped
- Handful of raw cleaned and chopped spinach per person
Here’s how it goes….. So my measurements are based on two people. Adjust as needed.
Rinse the fish heads and put in a stock pot. In my case with the entire body I had to clean the innards out and pull out some bloodlines etc and be sure to clean it really well. Add the heads and shells of the prawns. Put the prawn meat aside for later. Cut the 1/2 onion into 4 pieces. Don’t worry about the skin. Throw it in. Smash the garlic clove and throw it in. Large chop 1/2 carrot. You guessed it. Throw it in. Add 5 – 6 whole peppercorns. Chop the green part of the leek but wash it VERY well before adding it. Add enough water to just cover the contents of your pot. Cover and put on high heat. Bring to a boil and then turn way down to barely a simmer. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes and turn heat off. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve (or if you’re cooking in my temporrty kitchen do the best you can with the lack tools on hand). Pour the stock into a clean pot and return to the stove. Cook on high at a rolling boil until the stock is reduced nearly in half. This will help to concentrate the flavor. And no, I did not forget to write down salt. Do not add salt at this point. I find stocks are best unsalted. This way you have more control when you use is as an ingredient.
**Note regarding all of the fish bones and heads etc…. I suggest you pick through the head and pull off all that wonderful meat. It really is the best. Those of you who do sushi with me…. you know how I feel about Hamachi Kama. This is no different. Pull the meat but just be careful to not include bones or scales. Set aside for later. If you don’t use all of your stock for your stew, freeze until next time you need fish stock.
Start by cleaning and slicing your veg and fish. Thinly slice the shallot. Thinly slice 1/2 of the white part of a leek and reserve the other half for another day. Now it is time to wash you leek. Get a bowl filled with cold water and swish the sliced leeks in the water and set aside for a few minutes to let the dirt settle to the bottom. Using a slotted spoon skim the leeks off the top. Now is the time to get yourself a clean chopping board and clean knife. Really. Make sure there is no more leek dirt around otherwise you risk your stew being gritty. No one wants that! And no. Of course I don’t speak from experience!!! Thinly slice a bit of fennel. I used maybe a 1/4 cup. Fennel can have a very strong licorice flavor and can sometimes over power so use your judgement but fennel does goes very well with fish. If you love fennel feel free to add more or garnish the stew with a bit of raw fennel! Debeard and clean your mussels discarding any with cracked shells or any that won’t close when pinched together. Devein and rinse your prawns. Make sure there are no bones in your fish and cut the fillets into large chunks.
Heat a bit of oil in a deep fry pan; one with a lid. When hot add your shallot and leek and saute gently without browning. After a few minutes add your fennel. Once soft add 1/4 – 1/3 bottle of white wine (note – if you are cooking for more than 2 you don’t need to add double or triple the wine. I wouldn’t use more than 1/2 a bottle). I used a sauv blanc from New Zealand. Cook until the wine has been reduced to just a few tablespoons. Add the mussels and cover. Cook gently until the mussels are just open. Remove the mussels but be sure to leave all of the mussel broth in the pan. Put the pan back on the heat and add a couple of ladles of fish stock per person (approx 1 cup per person) to the pan. Bring stock to a simmer. Add the fish fillets and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper and poach for a few minutes. Add the prawns and some lemon zest (I added 1/2 tsp). Poach the prawns for a couple minutes. Add the reserved fish meat from the stock and as many mussels as you want to serve (I’d say 4 or 5 per person). Sprinkle with some chopped fresh dill (1/2 tsp per person) and a squeeze of lemon (1 wedge per two people). Feel free to snack on the remaining mussels if there are any (I highly recommend it). The goal here is to only reheat the mussels and reserved fish meat and not to cook it further.
While mussels are cooking (the first time you put them in the pan), wash well and chop your spinach. Place a handful of raw spinach in the bottom of each individual serving bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon.
Once the mussels and fish meat is heated through portion all of the fishes and seafood on top of the spinach. Return the stock to the stove and taste it so you can adjust seasoning at this time. Add salt if need but I find because the mussels can be so salty often no additional salt is needed. Make sure the stock is quite hot and nearly at a boil. Ladle the hot stock over the top of the fish and seafood. The heat from the stock will slightly wilt the spinach but still leave a bit of bite to it. It is nice to have the slight crunch with all of the soft seafood. Add any garnishes you’d like. Lemon zest, dill, fennel. A wedge of lemon.
I hope you enjoy!!