Monkfish, Mussel and Prawn Stew with Char-grilled Sourdough (Cioppino)

This delicious fish stew, as seen on Rick Stein's BBC series, The Road to Mexico, is an easy one-pan dish packed full of seafood and with a brilliant depth of flavour.

Introduction

The Tadich Grill is the oldest restaurant in California. It first opened in 1849 and you could almost say it hasn’t changed much since then. When you walk in you are greeted by waiters in white jackets, black trousers and long white aprons, and the long wooden bar runs all the way down the centre of the restaurant. The kitchen, too, felt like it’s been there forever and was as hot as my first little kitchen at The Seafood Restaurant used to be, mainly because, like me, they had a large mesquite charcoal grill. Mine was ordinary charcoal but the mesquite boiler at the Tadich is part of what makes it special. The queues at busy times are enormous and they serve on average 700 meals a day. This cioppino, which literally means chopped seafood, is famous and was delicious. There was an amazing variety of seafood but the important element was the chunky tomato base. They were generous enough to give me the recipe but I confess I had to cut out a few elements, mostly some seafood. The variety was simply too great for domestic shopping and purses.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

12 raw shell-on prawns
700ml fish stock or water
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
30ml olive oil
30g butter
5 cloves garlic, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
100ml white wine
1 tsp salt
10 turns black peppermill
½-1 tsp chilli flakes
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
250g monkfish fillet, cut into 4cm pieces
20 raw mussels, cleaned
To serve:
6 slices of sourdough bread
1 clove garlic, peeled
olive oil
small handful parsley, chopped

Instructions

Remove the heads and shells from the prawns but leave the last tail segment of the shell in place. Simmer the heads and shells in the stock or water for 20 minutes, then strain and discard them. Set the stock aside and reserve the prawn meat to add to the stew later.

Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a small pan and reduce to a couple of teaspoons.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan, add the garlic, onion, celery and green pepper and sweat for 6–8 minutes. Add the white wine, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, tomatoes, then the fish stock and the vinegar reduction. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding the oregano for the last 5. You can make this base in advance if you like.

To finish, bring the stew base to the boil. Add the reserved raw prawns, the monkfish and mussels, put a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Toast the sourdough, then singe the slices slightly on a gas flame. Rub the toast with the garlic and sprinkle with olive oil. To serve, place a slice of the toast in each bowl, ladle in some stew and sprinkle with parsley.

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