Fish and Fennel Stew
A fabulous one-pot meal that only needs a green salad and some good bread or friselle, Italian dried bread, round with a hole in the middle. This dish is excellent the next day and can even be frozen. Serves 4
2 pinches saffron threads
900g thick, white fish fillets cut into 3-4cm pieces. Firm fish such as blue eye trevalla is best, but red snapper is a less expensive option.
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 medium red onions, sliced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
0.5 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1.5 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
Pinch or two chilli flakes, optional but recommended.
1 cup dry white wine
Bread or friselle to serve
Soak saffron in 1.5 Tbsp hot water and set aside.
Place the fish in one layer in a non-reactive dish, sprinkle with 1.5 Tbsp olive oil and the lemon juice and season with a pinch of salt. Turn fish to coat both sides and again season with salt. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. In a pot with a lid that can later accommodate the fish in one layer, gently fry the onion and fennel in 3Tbsp oil until soft, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, parsley and oregano and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and chilli flakes, wine and reserved saffron and soaking water and remove the pan from the heat.
Arrange the fish in one layer on top of the other ingredients in the pan and add enough water to just cover the fish. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, cover the pot and bake for 40 minutes until fish is cooked.
If using frizelle, place a round in each deep bowl and ladle the stew on top and serve immediately.
Adapted from "Italian Country Cooking", by Louke Werle, Metro Books New York.