Mr Flavour and I recently left our home to go for a lovely stroll. No, not to join the masses outside Primark in queuing for essential discount leisurewear, but to the local harbour for a breath of salty sea air. As we walked quayside, we noticed how the deep blue waters teemed with movement. Gazing into the depths, we spied shoals of mackerel, slightly bigger fish, and some other ones we don’t know the names for. Despite our apparent shortcomings when it came to identifying local fishes, the mesmerising lure of their aquatic ballet sure did work up an appetite for seafood. We were going to publish our recipe for Donald Trump’s birthday cake this week, but Mr Flavour found it too tricky icing Barack Obama’s handsome face onto the topping. So instead, here’s our recipe for a delicious mussel and monkfish stew. We gained inspiration for this dish from the legendary Tom Kerridge’s Lose weight for good recipe book. However, we changed up the seafood, left out the orzo and buried any potential for weight loss by serving ours with mountains of crusty bread and a cheeky fino sherry. Here’s how it’s done:
2 medium white onions, or a massive Spanish one
2 fennel bulbs (some persuasion required if your husband claims he doesn’t like fennel)
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
As big a pinch of saffron as you can afford
300ml fish stock
1 large courgette
50g pitted olives (Chef Tom says kalamata, we say whatever’s in the cupboard)
1 tbsp capers
4 thick pieces of monkfish
300g of pre-cooked but inexplicably fresh mussels
Pepper and possibly salt, depending on the fish stock
Visit your local fishmonger, (in our case, the wonderful Pescaderia El Timon) with every intention of buying smoked cod and prawns. Practice your Spanish with the staff. Quickly realise you’re out of your depth and purchase whatever is within pointing distance.
Lightly fry the monkfish in a little oil to give it a bit of colour. Remove and separate the juicy flesh from the bones, as we doubt you’ll want to eat those. Chop and fry your onions in a large pot. Add chopped fennel, minced garlic, diced courgette, and chilli flakes, frying until browned. Splash in a bit of white wine or sherry to deglaze the pot, but only if you can handle watching it evaporate.
Add the fish stock and the magical passata which seems to make every dish here taste wonderful. Add the saffron, plus a good grind of black pepper. Let the sauce simmer for as long as you feel is appropriate based on how thick or thin you like your food to be.
Add the capers, sliced olives, monkfish, and mussels to the sauce. Feel free to leave the shells in, but we personally think they’re an obstacle in an otherwise accessible dish. Simmer for a few minutes to warm the seafood, but don’t overdo it. Check if salt is required and add a little if so. The stock we’ve been buying is delicious, but saltier than Joe Exotic’s tears when he found out from prison that Carole Baskin acquired his zoo.
Serve with lots of bread, plus a slice of lemon. It also looks fancy if you put a single mussel shell on top, purely for photogenic purposes.
Aside from the walk to the shops in 30-degree heat, this hearty, almost healthy dish was super-easy to make and unbelievably delicious. It can also be made using just one pot, provided your cookware is of superior quality to ours. Perfect for 4 people, or 2 of significant appetite.