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Fear-Free Fish Stew

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

I know a lot of people are hesitant about cooking fish, and I do understand why, but this, my friends, is the recipe to allay your anxieties and free you from fear. Your fissues will be a thing of the past.

Because, here, the fish is cooked only very briefly in the aromatic sauce and then left to stand for a couple of minutes or so in the pan but off the heat, it stays succulent and tender. And I very often make the sauce up ahead of time — it should be fine in the fridge for up to 5 days, and in the freezer for up to 3 months — which means all you need do is heat up the sauce (and I add 60ml/ quarter cup of water on reheating) and add the fish at the last minute, which can be very useful when you have people over. Still, the tomato sauce itself — fragrant with mace, ginger and turmeric, and thickened and deepened with sweet potato — shouldn't take more than an hour, including chopping.

Serve spectacularly with plain black Venus rice if you can get it, but any rice of your choice would of course do.

I tend to use sustainably caught cod from the fishmonger for this, but you can use any fairly meaty fish you want; a few prawns (and you can keep packets of these in the freezer, in readiness) are lovely in it, too. Indeed, if you wanted to use the sauce for a vegetarian or vegan stew, simply ignore the fish and add chunks of parsnip and aubergine along with the sweet potatoes (though cut bigger than them) and throw in some drained chick peas at the end.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

I know a lot of people are hesitant about cooking fish, and I do understand why, but this, my friends, is the recipe to allay your anxieties and free you from fear. Your fissues will be a thing of the past.

Because, here, the fish is cooked only very briefly in the aromatic sauce and then left to stand for a couple of minutes or so in the pan but off the heat, it stays succulent and tender. And I very often make the sauce up ahead of time — it should be fine in the fridge for up to 5 days, and in the freezer for up to 3 months — which means all you need do is heat up the sauce (and I add 60ml/ quarter cup of water on reheating) and add the fish at the last minute, which can be very useful when you have people over. Still, the tomato sauce itself — fragrant with mace, ginger and turmeric, and thickened and deepened with sweet potato — shouldn't take more than an hour, including chopping.

Serve spectacularly with plain black Venus rice if you can get it, but any rice of your choice would of course do.

I tend to use sustainably caught cod from the fishmonger for this, but you can use any fairly meaty fish you want; a few prawns (and you can keep packets of these in the freezer, in readiness) are lovely in it, too. Indeed, if you wanted to use the sauce for a vegetarian or vegan stew, simply ignore the fish and add chunks of parsnip and aubergine along with the sweet potatoes (though cut bigger than them) and throw in some drained chick peas at the end.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Fear-Free Fish Stew
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 4

Metric Cups
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large sweet potato (approx. 250g / 1¾ cups, diced)
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander (approx. 25g / 1 cup leaves)
  • approx. 20 grams fresh ginger
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (approx. 175g / 1⅓ cups, chopped)
  • 400 millilitres cold water
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • 2 x 400 grams tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 15ml tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon runny honey (or maple syrup)
  • 750 grams skinless firm white fish (in 1 thick piece or thick-cut fillets)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large sweet potato (approx. 250g / 1¾ cups, diced)
  • A small bunch of cilantro (approx. 25g / 1 cup leaves)
  • approx. 1½ inches fresh gingerroot
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion (approx. 175g / 1⅓ cups, chopped)
  • 1⅔ cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • 2 x 14 ounces tins of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1¾ pounds skinless firm white fish (in 1 thick piece or thick-cut fillets)

Method

  1. Measure all of the spices into a little bowl, and then peel the sweet potato and cut into 1 cm /½ inch dice, and leave to one side. Finely chop the tender stalks from the bunch of coriander, to give yourself 3 tablespoonsful. Peel and finely grate the ginger, to give you 1 teaspoonful, and peel the garlic. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Fill a measuring jug with 400ml / 1⅔ cups cold water.
  2. Warm the oil in a heavy-based pan or casserole that comes with a lid (I use one of 22cm / 9 inches diameter). Add the onion, and cook it gently for about 20 minutes until it's beginning to soften and colour.
  3. Finely grate in the orange zest, mince or grate in the garlic, add the chopped coriander stalks and the grated ginger, and stir everything over gentle heat, then add the spices.
  4. Tip in the diced sweet potato, and stir into the spiced onion over medium heat for a minute or so. Add the tinned tomatoes, and half fill the empty cans with your water and swill out into the pan.
  5. Spoon in the tomato purée, and add the salt and runny honey or maple syrup. Halve your zested orange and sqeeze out enough juice to give you a tablespoon and add that too, giving everything a good stir.
  6. Turn up the heat to bring to the boil, then clamp on the lid, tun the heat right down, and leave to simmer for 40-45 minutes until the sweet potato is completely soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. You can do all of this in advance, heating up when you are ready to cook the fish, or move straight on to the fish now.
  7. Cut your fish into large bite-sized pieces and add to the simmering sauce. Turn the heat down and put the lid on. Depending on how chunky or how cold the fish is, it'll need 3-5 minutes to cook in this gentle heat. Remove the pan from the heat, take off the lid and let it stand for a further 2 minutes.
  8. Chop the leaves you have left from the stalkless coriander, and sprinkle over the stew on serving.
  1. Measure all of the spices into a little bowl, and then peel the sweet potato and cut into 1 cm /½ inch dice, and leave to one side. Finely chop the tender stalks from the bunch of coriander, to give yourself 3 tablespoonsful. Peel and finely grate the ginger, to give you 1 teaspoonful, and peel the garlic. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Fill a measuring jug with 400ml / 1⅔ cups cold water.
  2. Warm the oil in a heavy-based pan or casserole that comes with a lid (I use one of 22cm / 9 inches diameter). Add the onion, and cook it gently for about 20 minutes until it's beginning to soften and colour.
  3. Finely grate in the orange zest, mince or grate in the garlic, add the chopped coriander stalks and the grated ginger, and stir everything over gentle heat, then add the spices.
  4. Tip in the diced sweet potato, and stir into the spiced onion over medium heat for a minute or so. Add the tinned tomatoes, and half fill the empty cans with your water and swill out into the pan.
  5. Spoon in the tomato purée, and add the salt and honey or maple syrup. Halve your zested orange and sqeeze out enough juice to give you a tablespoon and add that too, giving everything a good stir.
  6. Turn up the heat to bring to the boil, then clamp on the lid, tun the heat right down, and leave to simmer for 40-45 minutes until the sweet potato is completely soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. You can do all of this in advance, heating up when you are ready to cook the fish, or move straight on to the fish now.
  7. Cut your fish into large bite-sized pieces and add to the simmering sauce. Turn the heat down and put the lid on. Depending on how chunky or how cold the fish is, it'll need 3-5 minutes to cook in this gentle heat. Remove the pan from the heat, take off the lid and let it stand for a further 2 minutes.
  8. Chop the leaves you have left from the stalkless coriander, and sprinkle over the stew on serving.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare sauce up to 5 days ahead, cover and refrigerate until needed. Place in saucepan, bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and continue as directed in recipe.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 1 day. Reheat in microwave or saucepan, adding extra water if needed, until piping hot. Fish will be flakes rather than pieces on reheating.

FREEZE:
Freeze sauce only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge before using. Freezing stew with fish is not recommended.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare sauce up to 5 days ahead, cover and refrigerate until needed. Place in saucepan, bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and continue as directed in recipe.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 1 day. Reheat in microwave or saucepan, adding extra water if needed, until piping hot. Fish will be flakes rather than pieces on reheating.

FREEZE:
Freeze sauce only in airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in fridge before using. Freezing stew with fish is not recommended.

Tell us what you think

What 2 Others have said

  • I made this using monkfish and king prawns and it was delicious. We just had it with slices of sourdough bread.

    Posted by lynnielove on 9th March 2022
  • I made this with haddock and it was delicious, warm gentle spice, sweet and delicious. I didn’t have any mace but grated a bit of nutmeg in its place, and had it with black rice. A bit time consuming but a real winner!

    Posted by RuthieJrt on 22nd October 2021
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