Catalan Fish Stew with Spelt Bread

I decided to make a dish I have made a few times before – Catalan fish stew. It is a great dinner party dish as the bulk of the work can be done in advance. It is based jointly on a dish I had whilst in Barcelona and a Catalan fish stew I saw on MasterChef a year or two later – white fish, fried in olive oil, topped with a tomato, pinto beans and chorizo sauce. Flavoured with both fresh and ground fennel and thickened with ground almonds, this is a super tasty dinner – despite being healthy!!!

Right… so… you want to know what makes this so healthy?

Tomato Based Sauce!

Tomatoes are the best food source of uber-protective antioxidant nutrient, lycopene – which has amazing cancer and heart disease prevention properties.

Check this out – men who eat tomatoes twice a week are on average 35% less likely to get prostate cancer. Tomatoes also help protect against breast, pancreatic and intestinal cancers.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K (for bone health) and are a very good source of fibre and calcium too.

And… cooking tomatoes actually improves their health benefits as it concentrates the phytonutrients.

Pinto Beans!

Eating pinto beans will lower your cholesterol levels due to their high fibre content. They are also an excellent source of protein and vitamin B1

If you suffer from unstable blood-sugar levels (like me!), eating pinto beans will level out the highs and lows – with slow release energy thrown in to boot!

Pinto beans high levels of phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper lowers heart attack risk, heart disease risk and blood pressure.

Almonds!

Hmmm… Almonds? Really?? But they’re sooo fatty…

Ah HAH – but they’re the good type of fat! Y’know the type of fat that makes us lose weight, reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers cholesterol… monounsaturated fat!

Eating almonds can significantly reduce the GI level of what you’re eating too, and contain more protein by weight than an egg!

Cod!

As well as tasting fab, cod is an amazing low-calorie source of protein – rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Though it really doesn’t sound good – food rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help control blood pressure, protect against cancer and can even protect against Alzheimer’s and Age-related Cognitive Decline.

Spelt!

What previously may have made this dish less healthy was that I generally serve it with huge hunks of chewy white bread… So in the spirit of the event I decided to make my own spelt bread to eat with the stew.

Spelt is higher in complex carbs that wheat – as well as containing way more fibre and protein. Many people also find they can tolerate it more easily than wheat – though it is still not gluten-free.

The bread had a lovely deep nutty flavour, and was very quick and easy to make – recipe at the bottom!

Low in Fat…

Ok, ok, so the fish is fried…

But it is in healthy olive oil… and get this: the phytonutrients in tomatoes will be far better absorbed when eaten with a little oil. So you see, I was thinking about you all the time!

So, now I’ve dispensed with my healthful rhetoric… let’s get back to the dish, I hereby present you with my incredibly healthy, incredibly tasty…

Catalan Fish Stew


Served 7 hungry people!

  • 1500g cod fillet – skinned (any firm white fish will do!)
  • 500g huss fillet – skinned (again, any firm white fish will do!)
  • 500g mussels, prawns and/or squid cooked and peeled if required
  • 200g chorizo, diced
  • 1 tin pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp oregano (fresh only, don’t use dried)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron strands
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • A large glass of white wine (I don’t measure wine in cups 😉
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • olive oil for frying
  • 3/4 cup white flour for dredging the fish
  • salt to taste

Prepare the Sauce…
As I was cooking this for a mid-week dinner I decided to prepare the sauce in advance to give myself as little to do as possible the next day.

Heat the olive oil on a medium heat, and fry the onions, chorizo and garlic for 4/5 minutes. Add the ground fennel, oregano, 1 tbsp of paprika, the bay leaves and tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add the water and white wine, allow to cool and refrigerate until required. Or you could leave it to simmer away whilst you fry up the fish if you’re doing it all on the same day! (Which is probably more likely 😉

Fry the Fish…
(If you did prepare the sauce the night before then bring it to a simmer now!)

Chop the fish into large pieces. Mix the flour with a tablespoon of paprika and season with salt.

Dredge the fish in the flour mixture – patting off as much excess as possible.

Heat olive oil to a medium heat and fry the fish for a couple of minutes on either side – or until just cooked through – this will depend on how thick your fish is!

Set aside.

Put it Together…
Add the pinto beans to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. Add the almonds, mussels, squid and prawns and cook for two minutes further.

Divide up the fried fish between the plates and spoon over the seafood sauce.

Serve with hunks of bread for mopping up the juices… for instance, my

Single Rise Spelt Bread!


Makes 2 2lb loaves

  • 6 cups wholemeal Spelt flour
  • 2 cups hand-warm water
  • 1 tbsp dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle

Activate the Yeast…
Dissolve the honey and yeast with one cup of the warm water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes until it starts to foam.

If it hasn’t started to foam after this time, try again – the water may have been too hot or too cold. If this doesn’t fix it may well be that your yeast is too old and needs to be replaced.

Prepare the Dough…
Add one cup of flour to the dough and mix well, then add the salt and the flour, cup by cup until it is all incorporated.

Turn out the dough and knead for 3 minutes – do not overwork the dough. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease 2 2lf loaf tins*. Divide the mixture in two, shape into loaf sausages and place in the tins. Cover in oiled clingfilm and put in a warm place to rise until doubled.
Spelt can be really fast rising – so start checking after about 45 minutes. In my case it took over an hour though.
Bake!
Preheat oven to 180c.
Lightly brush the tops of the loaves with milk and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Pop in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Smells good? We’re almost there!

Remove from the tin and put back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp.

Place on a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating.

As well as an accompaniment to the fish stew – this made the most amazing sandwich bread – full of flavour!

* This is what I would have done if I’d had two loaf tins… I only had one – so I wrapped half of the dough in greased film and refrigerated it whilst the first loaf was rising – then let the second rise while the first was baking!)

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