It’s freezing right now, isn’t it? And I think this time of year, more than any other, ushers in a transient hibernation mode, before we get used to donning chunky coats, scarves and hats every time we leave the house.
There’s something about this easy stew, inspired by a recipe from plummy TV chef Valentine Warner, that complements a chilly blue-skied November morning: it evokes brisk walks on the Heath, fallen leaves, freshly baked bread. With its mix of unfussy fish, simple nourishing root vegetables, light texture and just a hint of richness, it’s a memorable Saturday lunchtime dish. Quite northern European too; we’ve eaten similar fare in Stockholm and Copenhagen.
Try and use pollock rather than cod, or even coley if you wish. It’s not the cheapest meal, but not expensive either; and nothing like a bouillabaisse, emphatically not a dish to cook when you’re watching the purse strings.
If you’re local, why not buy the fish from Harry’s on Kentish Town Road, and the veg from one of the stalls on the high street – or, of course, the many outlets on Queen’s Crescent market.
And that warm, cosy feeling should last all weekend. Even after a brisk walk to Kenwood House and back.
150g salmon (skinned too)
150g pollock or cod
A handful of prawns (raw or cooked)
50ml double cream
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1 bay leaf
1 celery stick
1 shallot (or 2 depending on size)
1 potato (diced in small cubes)
50 mls white wine
Handful of dill
Melt butter and add fennel and bay leaves, then all the veg (slicing the celery very finely, the carrots a little chunkier). Sweat the lot, lid on, on a lowish heat until soft but not too coloured – this is about 25 mins. Add the wine and then simmer until potatoes are cooked, another 5-10 mins perhaps.
Meanwhile cut the fish into good chunks. Pull or cut out any bones before adding it to the stew. Chuck the prawns in too. Simmer for just a few minutes as the fish will carry on cooking once you serve it up. Add the cream and stir through, sprinkling the dill.
Serve with some home-baked bread and a decent bottle of light red, a Gamay perhaps.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms