Ingredients to serve 2:
*A generous glug of olive oil
*1 red onion, thickly sliced
*1 small fennel bulb, cut into chunky slices
*3 garlic cloves
*1 bay leaf
*1 red chilli, thickly sliced
*1 teaspoon fennel seeds
*250ml white wine
*600ml hot fish stock
*500g ripe tomatoes, chopped
*1 large pinch of saffron strands, pounded in a little warm water
*200g any firm, white-fleshed fish, cut into bite-sized chunks (I tend to use monkfish)
*200g baby squid, cleaned and cut into rings
*6 unpeeled fresh langoustines or 8 raw tiger prawns
*1 teaspoon chopped fennel fronds
*1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley
*Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Saffron is one of the most ancient and expensive spices. It takes a harvest of 70,000 crocuses to get just one pound of saffron. Thankfully, this stew is nowhere near as labour-intensive.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and then fry the onion and fennel until softened and just beginning to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the whole, peeled garlic cloves and bay leaf and then the chilli and fennel seeds. (I leave the garlic whole here because I want a gentle background flavour rather than a full-on fierce kiss.) Cook for another three minutes, then splash in the wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape off all the bits caught at the bottom of the pan and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Pour in the hot stock and add the tomatoes and saffron. Cover and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
Once the stew has thickened a little, add the fish and cook for five minutes. Then add the mussels, squid, langoustines or prawns and peas, cover the pan and cook for three to four minutes, until the shellfish are pink throughout and the mussels have opened up. Fish out and discard any mussels that haven't opened. Scatter the fennel fronds and parsley over the stew and serve with fresh bread.
From 'Cook In Boots' by Ravinder Bhogal (Harper Collins £18.99)
Le Soula Blanc Vin de Pays des Cote Catalane 2006, France
Berry Bros & Rudd, £22.45
This southern French white has a nice liquorice/aniseed note that is perfect for setting off the fennel used in this dish.
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