This weekend there was nobody available from the cleaning agency to do their fairy godmother act on our flat. Cleaning it ourselves would be character building, I thought. The Husband disagreed but fortunately we had completely opposite preferences when it came to divvying up the work, so in fact it probably wasn’t enough of a hardship to build any character…and I was able to get a great deal of satisfaction from 1. Pretending to my sister that I had used her toothbrush to clean the bathroom and 2. Spending the cleaning money at the fishmongers’ on ingredients for a fish stew.
Fish Stew Recipe
1 kg seafood, firm white fish, filleted and cut into 3 cm cubes (not oily fish like salmon or tuna) and/or shellfish, peeled (reserve trimmings). I bought 250g each of monkfish, red bream, raw tiger prawns and queen scallops.
2 tins tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Approx 2l seafood stock, made up with white wine if necessary (recipe follows, or use shop bought fish or vegetable stock)
Coriander, chopped, to serve
Serve with crusty bread and garlic mayonnaise
1. Fry the onion and garlic in a large saucepan/cast iron fish over medium great until soft but not brown.
2. Add tomatoes and liquid from tin, crushing in the pan, and balsamic vinegar, and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.
3. Pour in seafood stock and bring to the boil, then turn heat right down
4. Place fish, prawns and scallops in the pan and make sure they are fully immersed. Poach for 10 mins until seafood is opaque
5. Serve in warm bowls, scatter chopped coriander over the top with toasted slices of bread, and garlic mayonnaise that everyone can help themselves to.
Seafood Stock Recipe
This is hardly a recipe, more just a set of general guidelines, which is sort of all you need for stock, really. That and a healthy buildup of shells from previous crustacean feasts. I keep bags of lobster and prawn shells (especially heads) in the freezer but a fishmonger should be able to provide fish trimmings otherwise.
Shellfish/fish trimmings (keep separate)
Mirepoix of 2 peeled carrots, 2 peeled onions, 2 ribs celery, all finely chopped (quantities not exact, feel free to use whatever is to hand, e.g. leeks including green tops, coriander stalks)
Oil, few tablespoons
Seasonings: pinch of sugar, tsp salt, few grinds of pepper, bay leaf, peel from half an orange
Tap water to cover
1. In a large saucepan (ideally with a spout and lid for easier pouring later), soften the mirepoix over a medium heat in a few tablespoons of oil
2. Add the shellfish trimmings, from frozen is fine (not the fish ones) and continue frying until fragrant, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks
3. Place the fish trimmings over the top, add cold water from the tap to cover, add seasonings and bring to a simmer (not a boil, out else the fish will make it gluey)
4. Turn the heat down to low and let out simmer for 45 minutes, our no more than an hour. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. Strain the stock into a measuring jug and discard solids. Any extra stock can be frozen – and should take up less space than the shells it was made from!
Garlic Mayonnaise (Aioli) Recipe
1 egg yolk
120ml flavourless oil, e.g. sunflower, vegetable, in a measuring jug our some other implement that can be poured from easily
50 ml olive oil
Pinch of salt
Juice of a lemon quarter
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
Put the kettle on to boil, in case things go curdly wrong
1. Start with the egg yolk in a small bowl on a wet tea towel, to stop it jitterbugging around on the counter top.
2. Add a pinch of salt, and mix with a hand whisk until pale and thick, scraping down the sides with a spatula
3. Whilst running the mixer, encourage a single drop of flavourless oil into the egg yolk. When the oil is mixed in, repeat, one drop at a time.
Why go so slowly? Each drop must be fully mixed to avoid splitting, or curdling, when the mixture goes from homogenous to grainy.
How can I tell if the oil is mixed in fully? As long as the mixture is homogenous, you’re fine. Fine is the complement of “not fine”, i.e. curdled, which is unmistakeable.
What if it has curdled? As soon as you realise, add a drop of boiling water from the kettle and carry on whisking to emulsify.
4. When the mayonnaise looks like mayonnaise, thick and glossy, you can go a bit faster with the oil.
5. When the flavourless oil is all incorporated, add the olive oil in the same way. You should have a glossy yellow mass of mayonnaise, squeeze in the lemon and stir in the minced garlic.
Spread luxuriously onto thin slices of toasted bread, broken into croutons and set adrift on your soup.