Saffron & Pepper Fish Stew
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, half chopped finely, half sliced, then quartered
2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
a pinch of sea salt
a half a tsp of ground black pepper
half of a butternut squash, diced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 large vine ripened tomato, diced
a good pinch of saffron threads
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
half a tsp dried parsley
4 strips of orange zest
250ml white wine
2 tsp fish stock powder (or sufficient cubes for 500ml liquid)
80g sliced black olives
500g cod fillets, skinned
300g plaice fillets, skinned
lemon quarters for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan or large wok. Once good and hot, add the onion, garlic and both peppers with the sea salt and black pepper. Stir fry over a moderate heat until the onion is transparent and the peppers have softened. Don't allow the garlic to burn.
Add the butternut squash, fennel and tomato and continue to stir fry until the fennel appears slightly softened.
Add the saffron, bay, thyme, parsley and orange zest and stir to combine.
Add the wine and allow it to frizzle and reduce to around half, stirring throughout.
Add the water and stock powder/cube(s) and stir to combine. Bring to a lively simmer and cook with a lid on but stirring occasionally, until the saffron colour is well established and the flavours have combined nicely. Keep tasting the sauce - you will know when it is ready. Adjust the amount of black pepper, if it requires it.
Remove the lid, add the black olives and stir through. Continue to simmer until the sauce has reduced significantly and intensified. Do not allow it to run dry, however! Taste for seasoning - particularly salt at this stage.
Place the fish on top of the mixture and replace the lid. Cook on a gentle heat until the fish is almost done, then break it into large chunks and stir in the liquid that it will have produced, taking care not to break up the fish too much.
If the stew is still rather dry, add a little more hot water - bit by bit - until it reaches a nice saucy consistency.
Serve in warmed bowls with chunky bread for dipping and a lemon quarter to squeeze over.