Recipe: Mediterranean fish stew

Last updated 12:00 21/05/2014
SN fish stew

WINTER WARMER: A tangy tomato based fish stew.

SN fish stew
GOOD BASE: Onions and garlic help give the flavour boost to the stew.

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I can't say that I ever imagined using my Dad's cooking as an inspiration. As a kid I was very embarrassed by his bad manners. He dipped chunky white bread into olive oil. In front of people.

New Zealanders didn't do olive oil in the 1970s - nobody else's parents ate like this, we were mortified.

While not a bloke who spends much time in the kitchen, I have to reluctantly admit that nobody makes a better crumbed calamari than Dad. Nobody. And I've eaten my way through kilos of the stuff in restaurants all over the world.

The secret, according to Dad, is the squid - it must be female broad squid. Dad's hot on this and has been known to boycott restaurants when they've not dished up their usual offering.

Given Dad is from an island in the Adriatic, it's not a surprise that his other great cooking success is also seafood. He makes a mean fish stew, or brudet.

Dad makes it the traditional way, full of bones and fish heads.

The thought of serving up fish eyes bobbing in soup isn't so appealing, so I'm putting a moderate lens on the recipe. I teach a version of this in my Mediterranean cooking class and it's always a crowd pleaser.

If you make it Dad's way, you will create your own fish stock from the bones and cook it for much longer than I do. Dad also throws rice in.

My recipe is nice and quick and I had it on the table in about 40 minutes tonight.

While I'm using fish fillets in this recipe, I recommend giving it a whirl using bone in fish steaks once you're happy with the recipe.

They'll take longer to cook, but the taste will be so much more intense.

At the end of the day, it is a rustic meal so having a plate for bones at the table is no big deal.

Large splash olive oil
1-2 red onions, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (I often use more)
½-1 cup parsley, chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (I sometimes use two cans)
1 green capsicum, diced (optional)
Salt and pepper
250ml fish stock
600-750g firm fish fillets, rinsed and dried on paper towels (I used warehou)

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1. Heat the oil in a soup pot or wide saucepan. Add the onion and sweat for a few minutes. Throw in the garlic, parsley and capsicum and stir over a low heat until garlic just begins to change colour (try not to burn the garlic).

2. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (although watch the salt due to salt content in stock).

3. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for another 10 minutes.

4. Chop the fish into similar size large-ish pieces. Carefully put the fish fillets into the pot (add some water and/or wine if necessary so liquid covers the fish).

5. Cook gently until the fish is just cooked through (seven to eight minutes). Shake the pot if necessary, but do not stir or the fish will break up.

Serve hot with crusty bread, or a carb of your choice (we had that easy favourite, couscous, tonight).

If you want to flash it up a bit, you can pop in some mussels or prawns. Tonight's meal was a last-minute decision and I only had about 350 grams of fish, but we stretched it to feed the three of us.

This is one of my "go to" recipes. Always super tasty and never fails.

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