Merguez Fish StewBy Donna Ross
It's brilliant that more and more sustainable fish are being caught and sold, but the honest truth is that some of the plentiful white-fleshed fish caught round the UK coast can be lacking little in texture and flavour when compared to the more popular species: I guess that's why they're less popular! Cooking with pouting, whiting, ling and pollock needs a bit more creativity and I've found Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls Fish book a great source of inspiration and full of good ideas. This trick of lightly salting white fish that can lean towards the mushy side is genius, and is described in more detail in the book, but I've given a quick and simple description of the method here. For bigger fillets of fish right up to whole sides, I suggest you consult the book!
Cured lamb merguez sausages are a great fridge standby and I've used them as a guide for the stew's flavourings. Opinion of what makes up a merguez spice mix varies, so I've stuck with those thats seem common to most recipes, but you also could mix things up by replacing some of the spices with fennel seeds, cumin and some Harissa paste.
Prep time: 10 minutes
500g white fish such as pouting
3-4 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
To salt the fish, sprinkle a plate or shallow baking dish (glass or ceramic, not metal) with a thin layer of sea salt like Maldon. Lay the fillets over in a single layer, and sprinkle another thin layer of salt over the top of the fillets. Leave for about 5 minutes for fish about a centimetre thick (as the Kernowsashimi white fillets often are), a bit longer for thicker fillets. When teh time is up, wash teh salt off under the tap and dry the fillets with paper towels. Use in this recipe, or wrap in cling film (or place in a sealed tub) and keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Merguez fish stew
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
I onion, sliced
4 sticks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic
Quarter teaspoon of cayenne (or just a pinch if you like things a bit milder)
One teaspoon ground coriander
One teaspoon dried thyme
One teaspoon ground sumac
Half teaspoon caraway seeds
Half teaspoon paprika
100ml dry sherry or white wine
160g lamb merguez sausages, each sausage cut into 3 or 4 chunks
400g potatoes chopped into quarters
400g tin chopped tomatoes
500g lightly salted white fish such as pouting, cut into large chunks
In a shallow sauté pan or large saucepan, fry the onion for about 10-15 minutes in a little oil; you want it to start turning brown and be quite soft. Add the celery and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes and then add the spices. Fry everything for another couple of minutes until you can being to smell the spices. Add the sherry or white wine and scrape off any stuck spices or onion from the bottom of the pan.
Add the sausages and potatoes and stir round to coat in the spices. Add the chopped tomatoes and refill the tomato container with water and add that to the pan as well. Add a few grindings of black pepper and pinch of salt. Stir everything round and then cover and cook for 30-40 minuets until the potatoes are cooked through.
When the potatoes are cooked, lay the fish chunks on top of the stew and press them down a little into the sauce. Cover the pan and cook over allow heat for about 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through - test by using a spoon or spatula to break a chunk of fish apart and touch the middle - if it's hot, it's cooked.
Serve with greens and some warm crusty bread.