One of my favorite shows on Netflix was “The Big Family Cooking Showdown”. In this reality TV series, families would compete against each other to complete challenges in the kitchen and come up with some awesome dishes. While I was watching it, one episode caught my attention a few months back—in the semi-finals of the second season where they had to taste and remake the Catalan Fish Stew.
From then on, I wanted to make the dish as well, but I didn’t have the chance since the recent pandemic occurred. Finally, with some leftover seafood on hand, I decided to try my hand on it. Because of a lot of substitutions and limitations, it evolved into a dish that was heavily inspired by Catalan Fish Stew, but a family dish that is close to the recipe, but personalized.
I’ve named it Spanish Style Fish Stew because some elements in the Catalan Fish Stew were missing in my dish—and I substituted heavily. Going to the grocery nowadays is a challenge. There were a lot of ingredients that weren’t available, like mussels, or fennel. I also didn’t get a hold of fish bones, and I couldn’t put all the shrimp in because my sister was allergic. Even with all these limitations, it was a family hit! It seems like it’s going to be a regular family dish from now on: something that I can repeat as a one-pot meal for everyone, and even improve on in the future when ingredients are more available.
The funny part about family dishes is that some of these dishes are inspired by dishes cooked by a family member, like your mom or grandmom, or dishes from where you’ve been, or what you’ve eaten in a restaurant, and there’s a lot of passing on, guessing and substitution involved.
Sharing with you this recipe!
Spanish Style Fish Stew
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 300 grams of firm white fish (Pollock, cod, etc.)
- 100 grams of squid rings or strips
- 100 grams of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 200 grams of chorizo, chopped into half-inch chunks
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- (Note: I didn’t have fennel at the time though, so I substituted this with a teaspoon of anise seed. You can also substitute with anise water infusion: infuse 1-2 star anise in ¼ cup of water for about 10 minutes and use the water infusion [remove the anise seed at this point please!] to imitate the subtler taste of fennel)
- 1 red chili, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. dry thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon saffron strands
- Note: This is also unavailable to me at the time, so I used 2 small pinches of turmeric
- 1 can of tomatoes, or you can use 5-6 regular sized tomatoes
- ½ cup of white wine
- 2 and a half cups of fish stock. If the fish stock is not available, you can use water
- ¼ cup ground toasted ground almond
- Note: I substituted this with ¼ cup almond flour, and lightly toasted this in olive oil. You can use other types of nuts as well, like hazelnuts or pistacchios, but Almonds are recommended because it works well and is traditional to the dish. Peanuts might not be a good idea because its taste a bit too strong.
- Salt and pepper, according to taste
- 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped black olives, for garnish
- Lemon Wedges – to be served on the side
- Dry the fish and squid in paper towels and then dredge them in flour with salt and pepper, patting the excess off.
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil and then pan fry the fish and squid until light golden brown. Set aside.
- In the same pan, sauté the onions, garlic, chili, dry thyme leaves, fennel bulb (or anise seeds), and turmeric (if you are using turmeric) until the onions are translucent.
- Add the chorizo and let the fat render a bit before deglazing the pan/pot with white wine.
- Add the canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, saffron (if you are using saffron), and the bay leaf, as well as the fish stock, and bring to a simmer.
- If you used fresh tomatoes, you need to simmer this down to about 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and sauce-like.
- Add the shrimp to the stew, as well as the fish and squid that had been set aside earlier.
- Simmer for about 2-3 minutes before stirring in the ground almonds/toasted almond flour. In the show “Big Family Cooking Showdown” the toasted ground almond was also used as a topping for the dish.
- Best served with steamed potatoes, greens, and lemon wedges. I think this also goes quite well with sourdough bread, or steamed plain rice (because I’m Asian haha, we love our rice).