Around the world in 80 dishes No. 40: Catalan fish stew

Ingredients to serve 4
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125g blanched almonds or hazelnuts
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Half a teaspoon crushed dried chillies
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely sliced
One-and-a-half red peppers, finely sliced lengthways
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
2 pinches of saffron strands
45ml brandy
150g chopped tomatoes
275ml white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
700g firm, thick white fish fillets (monkfish, haddock or cod), cut into 5–7cm pieces
4 large raw prawns, shells on
12 mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
12 clams, scrubbed and cleaned
Chopped fresh parsley
Juice of half a lemon

Method

Ground nuts enrich the smoky tomatoey sauce of this fish stew. The sauce can be made ahead and then the fish added at the last minute just before you want to serve it.

Begin by toasting the nuts. Scatter them in a baking tray and set it under a medium grill for 5–7 minutes until turning golden. Stir them a couple of times so they brown evenly, and don't let them burn. Allow to cool and grind the nuts using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. They don't have to be finely ground, but try to avoid any large lumps.

In a wide, non-stick frying pan that has a lid, heat the oil and gently fry the garlic, dried chillies and bay leaf for 2–3 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden. Lower the heat and add the onion and red peppers. Gently cook for 15–20 minutes until the vegetables are very soft. Stir in the smoked paprika and saffron and continue to cook for a couple of minutes so the spices can release their flavours. Add the brandy and boil for a minute or so until nearly evaporated then add the tomatoes. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes before adding the wine, a few pinches of salt and some black pepper. Cook gently for a further 7–10 minutes until the tomatoes have completely broken down.

Lower the heat and add the ground nuts to the dish. Season the pieces of fish with a little salt before pushing them into the sauce, along with the prawns, mussels and clams. Cover with a lid. Cook gently for 5–7 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the shells of the mussels and clams have opened. Discard any shells that have not opened. Test for seasoning before gently stirring the parsley through and squeezing the lemon juice over the dish. Serve in bowls with crusty bread.

Taken from 'Stewed! Nourish Your Soul' by Alan Rosenthal (Ebury, £14.99). Photograph by Jonathan Gregson

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