So it turns out that I’m still blogging, even though it’s November! This is a very familiar feeling. Some of you may be familiar with it, too. When I was at uni, and I had an essay due, that was the time that all the housework got done. That was the time when it was really important to write a diary. That was the time that I had sooooo many things to do that weren’t writing the essay that it was a miracle that I ever got anything done at all. Those cups of tea didn’t make themselves, you know.
I exaggerate a little, but the sensation is very similar. I decided that I would round out and properly finish my book from last November (I cannot say or even write ‘my book’ without cringing, this definitely needs some work), which is much more difficult than writing the original 50,000 words was. It’s a whole different ballgame. A whole ‘nother kettle of fish. It iiiiiis different. Whoo boy. Different, different, different.
So, instead of breathing more life into that-which-shall-not-be-named (*cough* my book *cough*) let me share with you this story of fish stew. If it turns out that the fish stew story is more interesting, I will have a problem on my hands.
It began with me wanting to eat something with fish and saffron in it. I took a notion somewhere in the part of my brain that processes tastes, and spent quite a lot of time mulling over how I was going to make it happen. I saw this recipe for moqueca, a Brazilian soupy stew of fish and coconut milk and bright colours, and that ticked a few boxes. No saffron though. The main experience I have of using saffron is in paella, and that ticked a few more boxes, and the next thing I knew I was trying to cram the two recipes together into one plate, and beginning to believe that I could do it successfully, to boot. This is why I’ve called it a fusion stew – it’s half moqueca, half paella, all delicious, super colourful and packed full of flavour. Let us proceed.
- 1 – 2 tsp oil
- one fennel bulb
- leaves from several stems of fresh thyme
- one large garlic clove, crushed
- one small red pepper, diced
- one small green pepper, diced
- four cod portions
- big pinch of saffron
- a volume of fish stock that I can’t remember. Enough to cover the veg but not the fish. Sorry.
- about 100ml coconut cream
- one red chili (or less if you prefer)
- handful frozen peas
- tin of chickpeas (choose the size of tin depending on how much you like chickpeas)
- handful fresh coriander
- salt and pepper to taste
First up – fennel? Yep, fennel. They had no spring onions at the shops. That’s what I really wanted. They did, however, have fennel. Fennel is like an onion from space, and it goes with fish, so I tumbled one into my basket and proceeded at full speed ahead round the fruit and veg aisle. I’ve been reading Thug Kitchen (that link is SO NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR ANYONE WHO DOESN’T LIKE SWEARING I’M NOT KIDDING), and I think I’m a badass now.
I heated the oil in a wok, over a medium heat, and added the fennel, garlic and thyme. I cooked until the garlic was fragrant and lightly browned, then threw in the peppers.
Now I had a nest for the cod (which is not something that cod usually needs), and I nestled it in there. I sprinkled the saffron threads over the fish, then added the stock, covered with a handy pot lid and simmered for ten minutes.
I just love the way that saffron gives this borderline obnoxious yellow colour to everything, and in absolutely no time at all. This is part of the appeal, as well as the flavour, the vibrant colour and the risk of irrevocably staining nearby fabrics.
One the stew had simmered, and the fish was cooked through, I added the coconut cream, chili, peas and drained chickpeas, then stirred gently. The fish flaked up at the least pressure, ready to mingle with all the other ingredients.I had a taste and seasoned as seemed appropriate.
I gave it another five minutes to get acquainted and reduce, then I stirred half of the coriander though, ladled out a giant bowl of stew and topped it off with some extra coriander leaves and freshly ground pepper. I served it with some crusty bread, excessively buttered. It was everything I had hoped it would be.