Growing up, weekdays were filled with school and other activities; we spent most Saturdays with friends and on Sundays we would either have lunch at a restaurant or have this fish stew.
Making the stew and preparing the meal was lots of fun and involved every single member of the family. Some of us went to the fish monger to buy the freshest available fish and shellfish that was in season while the rest of us worked on the other components of the meal.
The main course was always the fish stew; we would prepare it using fish with soft and firm flesh to have a contrast of textures. My mom and aunt would prepare the fish stock and the fish while my uncle would work on the aromatic tomato base for the soup. I was mostly responsible for side dishes and salads but I vividly remember the process.
We served the stew with rouille which was a mayonnaise based one, I usually don’t make it when it’s the three of us but when we have company, I like to use the recipe.
The original recipe feeds 12-15 people easily for a main course, so I scaled it down significantly and made it a lot lighter, while I think it reheats beautifully, it’s best as soon as it’s made. Oh and I rarely go through the trouble of making fish stock because I find it easier to buy fish fillets but if you are using whole fish, making a homemade fish stock definitely intensifies the fish flavour. These days, most fish mongers and even some grocery stores sell fresh fish stock which is also a good option.
- 3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 3 celery stalks
- 3 medium carrots
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 28oz. cans diced tomatoes or 7 cups peeled, diced fresh tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 10-12 parsley sprigs
- 3 thyme sprigs
- Pinch of saffron
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4-6 cups of fish stock or water
- 2-3 pounds white fish fillet such as halibut, tilapia, monk fish, basa, mahi mahi,
- Shellfish (optional)
Peel the onion and carrots, chop into large chunks and place in a food processor with the celery, pulse until finely chopped. Heat the olive oil in a very large pot or a Dutch oven, add the onion mixture and sauté lightly until the vegetables wilt but do not take on much of a colour, add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
Make a bouquet garni with bay leaves, parsley and thyme; add it to the vegetables along with the tomatoes and 4 cups of water of fish stock. Add the saffron, if using, season generously with salt and pepper and simmer over low heat for about half an hour to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile cut the fish size pieces and prepare the shellfish, if using shrimp, leave the tails on and refrigerate the seafood until ready to add to the tomato base.
Once the tomato base is ready, adjust the seasoning, add the fish and shellfish, if using and simmer over low heat until cooked; at this point more fish stock or water can be used to reach the desired consistency. Remove the bouquet garni and serve the stew piping hot with rouille and crusty bread.