Spring-inspired fish, fennel, orange and olive stew

Yesterday, I invited a few people for supper to celebrate a friend’s recovery from a rather horrible health scare. I had been planning to cook a fish tagine but, typical me, ended up at the last minute changing my mind. It was such a beautiful day that I decided I wasn’t in the mood for the deep, earthy flavours of Morocco and wanted something lighter and more zingy to match the mood of impending Spring. Too late to find a recipe, I ended up rooting in the fridge and putting this together and it turned out to be seriously delicious. 

You can make the sauce for this recipe much earlier in the day. Fifteen minutes before you’re ready to eat, bring it back to a bubbling heat and add the fish, making sure everything is thoroughly heated through before serving with some streamed greens – and a celeriac purée if you like. I served it with some sweet potato slow roasted with ‘nduja, my new favourite ingredient.

So, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 purple aubergine
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • zest and juice of one large organic orange
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 1 medium heat fresh chilli
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 packet Crespo black olives or similar
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g salmon or sea trout cut into large bite-sized chunks
  • 400g firm white fish: coley or monkfish for instance also in chunks
  • 200g large prawns (or squid if you prefer)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lots of organic extra virgin olive oil (XVOO)
  • parsley

Method

  1. Warm 3 tbsp XVOO in a heavy bottomed sauté pan or casserole.
  2. Roughly chop the aubergine, leek and fennel into the bottom of the pan with the fennel seeds and half the orange zest and heat gently for about 15 minutes until the aubergine softens and turns dark brown.
  3. Add the chopped chilli and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the bay leaves and cinnamon.
  4. Turn up the heat, add a slug more olive oil and the tomatoes, refilling the tin with cold water and adding this to the sauce.
  5. Squeeze in half the orange juice, add the olives and some black pepper and gently simmer the resulting sauce for fifteen minutes.
  6. At this point you can remove it from the heat and go do something else.
  7. Alternatively, if your guests are all here, continue to the next stage. It’s important not to add the fish until you’re ready to eat as it doesn’t taste anything like so good if the fish cooks for too long.
  8. Tip the prepared chunks of fish into the sauce making sure all of it goes under the sauce and heats through thoroughly for about ten minutes. The heat at this stage should be strong enough to keep the sauce hot after the addition of the fish, but not so strong that your fish boils and falls apart.
  9. Once all the fish and prawns have lost their transparency, and the pan is starting to bubble again, add the remaining orange zest and squeeze the last half of orange juice onto the dish with another generous slug of olive oil, some sea salt and lots of parsley – and serve to your lucky guests!

 

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