Day 70: Fish Stew with Saffron Aioli
inspired by Webbe’s at The Fish Café
I realise that I’ve been very London focused with the blog recently. In fact the last time I was inspired by a restaurant outside of the capital was on day 35 when I made Scallops in Seaweed Butter. So well over a month ago. Not good.
So it’s time for another trip to the British coast, and anther seafood dish to go with it.
Rye in East Sussex is a really pretty town with winding streets filled with old pubs and antique shops. It’s also just inland from Camber Sands which is such a vast expanse of beach that it doesn’t feel like you’re still in England.
Usually on a weekend away Aidan and I have a tradition of seeking out a local Thai restaurant for dinner. Often we would go away on a Sunday night, as we can be flexible with work, and this often meant a lot of other restaurants would be closed. But we kept up the tradition because we discovered that the Thai food you can get outside of London is, usually, so much better.
However on this particular trip the Thai restaurant (only one in Rye) was fully booked. So we wandered off looking for dinner elsewhere.
We found Webbe’s at The Fish Cafe. And I’m so glad we did. A family run restaurant using local fish caught off the south coast. Dinner was really delicious. Especially my fish stew.
So how should I go about making a fish stew?
After a bit of research it seems the basis of a good fish stew starts with the stock.
Hmmm. The only fish stock I’ve got are blue foil wrapped cubes which I’m not sure will be up to the task. I’m not going to find fish stock at the supermarket and with their fish counters closed it’s pretty unlikely I’ll find any whole fish from which I could make a stock either.
However the frozen aisle of the supermarket has the answer. A bag of frozen whole king prawns.
I’ll make a stock out of the prawn heads and shells. I’ve done something similar before when making the sauce for Jamie Oliver’s Prawn Linguine.
So I fry the prawn heads and shells with some onion, garlic, fennel and celery. I add wine and let it reduce before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and the same amount of water. The sauce bubbles away for about 15 minutes before I blend it and pass it through a sieve.
With hindsight, I should have blended it in batches rather than filling up the food processor. I had to take a short pause to clear up the tomatoey prawn juice that was dripping off my kitchen counter.
The rest is easy. I parboil some new potatoes and then add them to the sauce, along with more sliced fennel, to cook and then for the last few minutes add the pieces of gurnard and peeled prawns.
Gurnard apparently is quite a traditional fish to use in a stew. Italian chefs cook the sauce with gurnard and then blitz it smooth, like I did with the prawns. They would then add other fish fillets in pieces.
But I think the gurnard is delicious and deserves to be the star of the show. Plus now I’ve only got two more fillets to eat from my Fresh Cornish Fish order before I’ve officially run out.
The stew makes a brilliant dinner. Topped with samphire and lots of saffron aioli, plus chunks of crusty homemade sourdough to dunk into the broth.
My first, and definitely not my last, homemade fish stew.
I think it might be time for another fish delivery…
Fish Stew with Saffron Aioli
- 8 shell on raw king prawns
- 2 gurnard fillets
- 1 bulb fennel
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large onion
- 1 celery stick
- 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 175 ml dry white wine
- 10 small new potatoes, or a few larger ones cut into chunks
- 1 handful samphire
- ½ lemon
- olive oil
- 1 egg yolk
- mild olive oil or rapeseed oil
- ½ lemon
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 pinch saffron
- Peel the prawns, keeping the heads and shells, and devein.
- Add some oive oil to a deep, heavy based saucepan and add the prawn heads and shells. Fry on a medium heat.
- Roughly chop a garlic clove, half the fennel, the celery stick and half the onion. Add to the pan with the prawn shells and cook until the veg starts to soften. Add the white wine and let it bubble away. Then add the tinned plum tomatoes and a tin of water. Bring to the boil and then gently simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- In batches add the prawn shells and sauce to a blender and blitz until qute smooth. Pass though a fine seive. Discard the solids and keep the sauce to one side.
- Wipe clean the saucepan and put back on the heat with some more olive oil. Finely slice the rest of the onion and fennel and the remaining garlic bulb. Add to the pan and sweat gently for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile par boil you new potatoes in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then drain the potatoes and add them to the vegetables. Pour the sauce into the pan and let it bubble until the potatoes are almost cooked.
- Cut each gurnard fillet into large chunks. Add to the pan with the prawns. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the prawns are pink and the fish is opaque and flaky.
- Cook the samphire in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Dish up the stew and top with samphire, a squeeze of lemon juice and saffron aioli. Serve with crusty bread.
- Add a pinch of saffron to a small glass and pour over a tiny amount of boiling water. Leave for five minutes.
- Add an egg yolk to a bowl and whisk. Slowly start to dribble in the oil until the mixture gets really thick. Now add a squeeze of lemon juice which will make the sauce thinner. Add a little more oil until you have the consistency you want.
- Peel and crush the garlic and add it to the sauce. Add the saffron strands and the saffron water. Mix and season to taste. Ideally leave to infuse for a couple of hours before serving. It keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.