This is a wonderfully simply one-pot dish that is quick to make and tastes great. It can be warm and comforting, but is also light and healthy, making it an ideal supper at any time of the year. I make it – or at least some variation of it – fairly regularly, but I’ve probably never made it with exactly the same ingredients twice, and the recipe below should really be treated as something of a guideline.
I’ve certainly never used either nduja (pronounced something like en-doo-yah) or sea spinach before, both of which have been introduced to me by the fishmonger that I’m now lucky enough to live near in Sheffield. And the type and quantity of fish / seafood always varies, depending on what’s available and looks good, as well as the cost.
I’d never actually heard of nduja before, although I understand that its popularity has been growing, and it’s become increasingly available in the UK over the last couple of years. I’m not really sure how I should describe it. I guess it’s a soft – spreadable – spicy sausage, but I’ve also seen it described as everything from paté to salami. It’s Italian (from Calabria) and is pork-based, using various cuts which are taken mostly from the head and intestines. And it really is very spicy – much more so than chorizo, which is what I’d normally use for this recipe – so you don’t need much to add the most incredible, intense, hot flavour. It also goes very, very well with fish and seafood. But it also seems to be versatile, and I’ve found recipes that use it in all kinds of ways – including on pizza, in pasta sauce, and spread onto bruschetta. It’s definitely an ingredient that I’m going to have some fun experimenting with.
My fishmonger also introduced me to sea spinach, which I’m pretty sure isn’t actually related to the kind of spinach that is commonly found in stores, and that I normally use in this dish. But I was really glad to try this coastal plant, with its thick texture and slightly bitter flavour. It does need to be washed thoroughly to remove the light, white crust of salt that covers it, but even then, it made a wonderful contribution to this dish, adding what has to be described as a taste of the sea.
This spicy fish stew doesn’t take long to prepare and cook, and it makes a fabulous casual, relaxed supper. It’s a fairly substantial meal on its own, so you won’t necessarily need anything else with it, but it’s also great served with some crusty bread, which is just the thing for soaking up the fishy, spicy broth. And a glass of chilled white wine is the final, perfect accompaniment.
Recipe: Fish Stew with Chickpeas, Nduja and Sea Spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp nduja (or a small chorizo, cut into small pieces)
Nduja really is quite spicy, so use less than this if that’s more to your taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, outer leaves removed, washed and sliced
2 sticks celery, chopped
A small glass of white wine
500ml fish stock
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 400g can chickpeas
1 large bay leaf
About 600g (sustainabally sourced) white fish fillets, skin and bones removed, cut into medium sized pieces
2 squid, cut into rings or squares
12 king prawns
A couple of handfuls of sea spinach, washed thoroughly (or other spinach)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole over a medium-low heat.
Add the fennel seeds and cook for a minute or two, then add the nduja and fry for a few minutes, gently breaking it up using the back of a wooden spoon.
Add the garlic, leeks and celery, and cook gently, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the leek is soft.
Add the wine and cook until it has nearly all evaporated.
Add the fish stock, tomatoes, chickpeas and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until rich and thick.
Taste the sauce, and add some salt and pepper if needed (with the nduja, or even chorizo, it’s likely that you won’t have to add any, but make sure to check).
Add the fish, squid and prawns to the pan, cover and cook for five minutes or so, until it’s all cooked through. Add the sea spinach and stir, allowing it to just wilt into the stew before serving.