A Quick & Simple Fish Stew

I used coley in this dish – it’s cheap, sustainable and the texture works well provided you don’t over-cook it. You could use cod or haddock but it’s nice to know you’re doing your bit for sustaining fish levels. There’s a reason cod is more popular than coley – cod has a firmer texture and, if we’re being honest, eats a little better. But – in a dish like this you can build a decent base and flavour in the sauce – the coley will cook gently and the resulting meat is moist and tasty and will have cost you half the price of cod.
I also used mussels – you could use clams or other shell-fish. I love the flavour the mussels release into the sauce as they cook – there’s really nothing like it.
The real key to this dish, I think, is the fennel seeds. It’s nice enough without them but the fennel seed gives the dish character and that slight edge that makes it more memorable.
Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small fillets of coley cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 2 handfuls of mussels, washed, discarding any that are already opened
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped or pounded with a pestle and mortar
  • Half a pint fish stock (recipe to follow)
  • A pinch of saffron
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt & black pepper.

Fry the onion gently in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the fennel seed and fry for a further minute or 2 making sure the onions and garlic don’t burn.
Add the wine and reduce for a minute or 2. Now add the tomatoes, cook for a minute and add the stock, bay leaf and saffron. Cook for 15 minutes over a gentle heat.
The good thing about a dish like this is that you can fine-tune the sauce before adding the fish. So – season the sauce to your liking. Maybe add a pinch of chilli flakes if you fancy a slight kick to the dish.
Once you’re happy with the sauce, add the fish. Do this gently – don’t stir the fish in too much. Cover the pan and cook for a minute or two. Now add the mussels – cook until the mussels are opened – this will be a further minute or two.
Add some parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
This is a super tasty fish stew – it’s all about the stock and mopping it up with some bread.
Perfect to share.