This is like a Spanish Bouillabaise, a fish stew, from the Catalan region. (Fish stew doesn’t sound nearly as appealing, does it?) Driven by my having an octopus in the freezer that needed using, I got this idea from Culinaria Spain . Then I started comparing recipes and videos on the Internet and it quickly became apparent that there are as many variations as there are cooks. What I’ve documented here seems to me to distill the essence of the dish, though. Interestingly, every recipe added potatoes except my original in Culinaria Spain . Go figure, as they say in America.
The fish used here is a suggestion but monkfish seems very popular. Use what you can bearing in mind that firmer fish are better for this type of cooking.
|preparation time:||2¼ hrs|
|cooking time:||~30 mins|
- 1 octopus, prepared (~250g, squid would work if you can’t get one)
- olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled & thickly sliced
- 16 whole blanched almonds
- 2 slices baguette, ~2cms thick
- 20g flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 large vine tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 250ml dry white wine
- 500ml fish stock
- 500g small waxy potatoes, cut in 1cm slices
- ~400g monkfish, in 8 chunks
- 2 sea bream, prepared & halved front & back
- 24 large prawns, peeled & deveined
- 500g net fresh rope-grown mussels, cleaned
- Salt & pepper
The octopus. I’ve heard that octopus should be cooked either very rapidly or very slowly if it is to be tender. The original recipe fried it briefly then cooked it in the stew for 15 minutes or so. That sounded neither rapid nor slow to me so I followed Rick Stein’s guidelines and precooked it long and slow. Put the octopus in an ovenproof pan with a tight-fitting lid together with a few glugs of olive oil. Cook it in a 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 oven for 2 hours. Let it cool and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the cooking juices – another benefit of precooking. (This is definitely not necessary for squid – just cut them into rings & tentacles.)
The picada. This is something the Spanish use to flavour and thicken the stew. In a large skillet (one that has a lid), add enough olive oil to thinly cover the base, then gently fry the almonds, garlic and slices of bread (on both sides) until all look lightly browned. As they brown, remove them, either to a pestle and mortar or to the jar of a food processor. Either way, smash them together to a paste with a little more olive oil. Stir in the chopped parsley.
Making the suquet . To the pan and oil that cooked the picada ingredients, add the onions and fry until soft. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until broken down and a lot of the juices have evaporated. Stir in the white wine and reduce it by about a half. Add the fish stock, the reserved octopus cooking juices and potatoes. Simmer the potatoes for 7 or 8 minutes until almost cooked. Add the fish and simmer for another 3 minutes. Borrow a spoonful of the cooking liquid to slacken off the picada. Now stir in the octopus (or squid pieces) and prawns together with the picada. Place the mussels on top, cover teh pan with its lid and cook for another 3 minutes or so, just until the mussels open. (Remove any mussels which do not open.)
Let the dish rest, covered and off the heat, for 5 minutes before serving. A fresh green salad is all this needs, if anything.