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Nigella Lawson’s Fear-free Fish Stew

Banish your fish fears and make Nigella's simple fish stew, brimming with spices and tender white fish. As seen on her BBC2 series, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

From the book

Nigella Lawson


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.

It’s also very useful when you have to get dinner on the table fast, for although the sauce takes around an hour to cook (and for a good half of this time you can be lying languorously on a sofa, should your life allow for such luxuries), you can make it quite a bit in advance, actually; indeed, I think it is better for having time to steep and mellow. Then, when you’re ready to eat, you just heat the sauce, adding 60ml of water, chop up your fish chunkily, drop it all into the simmering pan, and supper’s pretty much on the table. Furthermore, you should regard the sauce as a welcoming base, ready to accommodate a good variety of fish. I’ve specified firm white fish to give you leeway, depending on what’s available, but there is no reason why you couldn’t use salmon either. And I have made this, too, with a couple of packets of raw prawns from the freezer. Nor is there anything to say this couldn’t be turned into a vegetable stew. In which case, increase the sweet potato, cutting any extra you add into bite-sized pieces rather than small dice (I still like to have some cut finely as below, since it helps give body to the sauce), along with parsnips, an aubergine and some courgettes, if they’re in season; the courgettes should be added towards the end of the cooking time; feel free to add a can of drained chickpeas along with them. And you can stir in 250g or more of young spinach leaves once everything’s cooked, letting them wilt in the heat of the pan for a couple of minutes.

Serve spectacularly with plain black Venus rice if you can get it. Or make up the bulgur wheat following the preceding recipe in Cook, Eat, Repeat, ignoring the roast vegetable part, and boosting the quantities to 300g of bulgur wheat and 575ml of water.

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¼ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp hot smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 large sweet potato (approx. 250g)
a small bunch of coriander (approx. 25g)
approx. 20g fresh ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 onion (approx. 175g)
400ml cold water
2 x 15ml tbsp olive oil
1 orange
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x 15ml tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp sea salt flakes (or ½ tsp fine sea salt)
1 tsp runny honey or maple syrup
750g skinless firm white fish, in 1 thick piece or thick-cut fillets


1. Measure all the spices into a little bowl, and then peel the sweet potato and cut into 1cm 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 cold water.

2. Warm the oil in a heavy-based pan or casserole that comes with a lid (I use one of 22cm 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 squeeze 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, turn 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.

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.

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From the book: Cook, Eat, Repeat

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