Romesco de peix, Catalan fish stew, is a wonderfully flavorful mix of seafood in a sauce made with almonds, peppers, tomato and garlic. It’s comforting without being too heavy. Truly delicious.
You may remember last month I took part in the first of a new monthly group called Fish Friday Foodies. We decided to start working to a theme, with this month being seafood soups and stews of the world. It didn’t take me much thought to decide to share this romesco de peix, Catalan fish stew. If you read here regularly it’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve gone for something Spanish as I do love so many of their dishes. But also the Spanish along the coast love their fish and seafood and have some great dishes using them (like the fideua I shared earlier in the year). This Catalan fish stew is, for me, one of the stars.
Romesco de peix v romesco sauce
If the name romesco is familiar at all, it may be you have had or seen romesco sauce. The two are connected – romesco sauce comes from Catalunya, and in particular the southern part where I lived for a few months a number of years ago now. It’s a delicious mix of peppers, hazelnuts, almonds and garlic, amongst other things. This dish puts that delicious sauce into fish stew form. There’s more than one form of Catalan fish stew, but this is certainly my favorite by far. It is also sometimes known as a romescada, the Spanish translation, although you’d never have seen that in the town I lived in – it was most definitely a Catalan stronghold!
What seafood is used?
The exact fish and seafood content can vary so if you don’t like any of the ingredients I have used here, you can adapt them to what you prefer, just consider how long everything takes to cook and add them at times that fit their cooking time. Clams are pretty common and I always remember it having a firm white fish such as monkfish in there as well. Other than that, it may have shrimp, other fish, mussels or whatever the cook likes. The flavors in this Catalan fish stew are just as delicious as romesco sauce since it uses the same ingredients, they are just a bit more liquidy. So make sure you mop them up with some bread or even just a spoon as you eat so you don’t lose a drop.
How to make this Catalan fish stew
Here I have opted for shell-on shrimp/prawns so I could use the shells to make a little stock to add in. If you’d rather avoid that step use a little less (or the same, to be honest) without shells and use a pre-made fish stock. Alternatively if you have fish bones either from what you are adding or just from asking the fishmonger, you can make stock with that. Homemade will almost always taste better but I appreciate it can make a bit of a smell. Otherwise, it’s really pretty easy to make – you soften the onion, add garlic, peppers and some herbs then wine, tomato and stock and cook down a little. Then you thicken it up with the almond and hazelnut flours before adding the fish and shellfish. Cover so they can steam and cook.
This Catalan fish stew is a wonderful combination of fishiness, tomato and the smooth earthiness and aroma from the nut flours and the herbs. It might not be the prettiest, but it is so full of flavor you’ll soon forget that. Trust me, you’ll want to eat every last drop. My husband even described it as the meal of the year so far, he liked it that much! It’s warmly comforting that it’s great for a colder day. However it would be fine any time since it’s not heavy. It’s one I can hardly believe I hadn’t made in a while, it’s so good. It definitely won’t be as long until we have it again.
Romesco de peix is a delicious fish stew with a tomato-nut sauce as the base. Comforting, filling but not heavy, it has been loved by all we have shared it with.
- 1/2 lb prawns/shrimp 225g, shell on*
- 1 small carrot*
- 1/2 small onion*
- 1 stick celery*
- 1 dried nora pepper or 1 dried ancho/California pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1/2 red pepper
- 2 cloves garlic (large)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes 180ml (fresh or canned)
- 1/2 cup white wine 120ml
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp Spanish paprika (sweet)
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 tbsp tomato paste/puree
- 1 1/2 cups fish stock or 2c, as needed, 360-480ml
- 3 tbsp ground almonds
- 3 tbsp ground hazelnuts
- 1 lb clams 450g
- 3/4 lb monkfish 340g
- 1 handful fresh parsley , roughly chopped
* if not making your own stock, you won't need shell-on shrimp/prawns nor the items that follow marked *.
If you are making your own stock, de-shell the shrimp/prawns and put the heads and shells in a pan with the onion, carrot and celery and cover with around 3-4cups/700-900ml water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so it simmers and cook for around 20-30min.
Meanwhile, break the dried nora/ancho/Callifornia pepper open and remove the seeds. Break it into pieces and put it in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and lave it to soak around 15min or more.
While it's soaking, finely dice the onion and slice the red pepper into half-length strips. Finely chop or crush the garlic. Remove any skin-like outer layer from the monkfish and dice into roughly 1in/2.5cm pieces.
Warm the oil in a pan then add the onion. Cook for around 5min until it starts to soften.
Remove the dried pepper from the water it was soaking in and roughly chop.
Add the garlic, red pepper, chopped dried pepper, fennel seeds and thyme to the onion and cook another 5min or so. Then add the tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, paprika saffron and tomato paste and stir.
Add 1 1/2-2 cups/360-480ml of stock (strained if using your own as made above) and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 10-15min until it reduces in volume a little. If you add in the larger amount of stock, it may need to cook a little longer to reduce more but it should deepen the flavor.
Next, add the almond and hazelnut flours and stir in well to thicken the sauce.
Add the clams to the sauce and press them under. If they are larger clams (like littlenecks), cover with a lid and allow them to steam a few minutes first. When they are starting to open add the monkfish and shrimp/prawns and press them gently under the sauce and cover again. If the clams are smaller, you can add everything together. Check now and then and turn the fish and shrimp if needed to get under the sauce.
Once all of the fish and seafood has changed translucent and the clams are open (ie they are cooked), sprinkle over a little parsley and serve.
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