My ultimate Ligurian Fish Stew

We all have a special recipe that we’ve cooked time and time again over many years, tweaking and adjusting until it finally reaches that point of perfection when it becomes one of your ‘signature’ dishes; one that family and friends beg you to cook for them. This is one of mine…

Ligurian Fish Stew

It began several years ago with a Tom Kime recipe that I found in a magazine. Over time I experimented and created my own version which I believe tastes even better than the original. The ‘sauce’ is richer and thicker, thanks to the addition of anchovies and a beurre manié (‘worked butter’) made with semolina flour and butter. Try it and let me know what you think.

This makes enough for 4 generous servings, or 2 servings for 2 days because it’s even better on the second day.

250g or so of small potatoes halved lengthways
saffron strands
assorted firm white fish such as cod, monkfish, halibut or whatever is in season (salmon is also good), about 600-800g
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 broad slices of peel from an orange (use a sharp potato peeler)
1 x tin anchovies, drained of oil
2 x 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
2 x tubs fresh fish stock (or vegetable stock) – about 500-700ml
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed, chopped finely
Half a handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
12 large prawns in their shells, heads removed
20 mussels and /or a handful of clams, cleaned
1 glass white wine or vermouth
olive oil
For the beurre manié: 1 tbs soft butter and 1 tbs semolina (or pasta type 00) flour

  1. Cook the potatoes with saffron for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cut the fish into big chunks and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry the crushed garlic, anchovies and orange peel gently in olive oil in a large Le Creuset-type casserole until the anchovies melt.
  4. Add the finely chopped onion and fennel and fry gently for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Then add the tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.
  6. Add the stock, cover with a lid and simmer for another 25 minutes or so.
  7. In a separate large frying pan with a lid, fry the garlic and chilli in oil for 2 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth, basil, prawns, mussels and clams. Cover and steam for 3-4 minutes. Throw away any mussels or clams that refuse to open.
  8. Blend together the butter and flour in a small bowl, then stir into the tomato mixture until it thickens. This takes only a few minutes.
  9. Finally, add the contents of the frying pan to the tomato mixture, then add the fish pieces and the potatoes. Push everything down under the sauce and simmer gently for about 4 minutes. Stir gently trying not to break up the fish too much, and add the rest of the chopped basil. Adjust the seasoning.

It doesn’t need anything on the side, but I sometimes serve it with toasted sour dough bread, rubbed with cut garlic, a sprinkle of sea salt and drizzled with olive oil.

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One comment

  1. That’s something really great!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

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