When I think of French cuisine, I think of rich, cream-based sauces, croissants, pain au chocolat, and crusty baguettes. And then I wonder how the Parisienne population remains so slender and chic. Mr L. struggled to come up with any french dishes to begin with, until I reminded him we'd enjoyed beef bourgignon only days before!
Anyway. One of the things which has surprised me is just how much my children like fish, and another is just how little fish I actually cook. So this year I've decided to cook more fish dishes for us all. I myself love it, and shellfish, whereas Mr L. is distinctly unadventurous when it comes to seafood. Too many bones is his usual answer, and trying to get him to eat calamari? Forget about it!
The kids however, have been extremely taken with mackerel pate, which I made for them, and have declared it one of their favourite meals.
The reason, by the way, I mention both french cuisine and fish, is because I was recently asked to create a dish inspired by France. Now, whilst I immediately thought of chicken and tarragon, or some sort of pot au feu, or even a hearty tartiflette, I kept being drawn back to the fish. Think moules mariniere or bouillabaisse and you can see my attraction.
So, after browsing some cookbooks for inspiration and visiting our local fishmongers (in our supermarket - I WISH we had a proper fishmonger close to us) I came up with this Provencal inspired fish stew. It's a cross between a stew and a soup, I suppose, but it's quick to cook, and filling too.
It's entirely a base for whatever is on offer/you like the look of/ you can get into the kids (or in my case, the husband) and is so easily adaptable. You can also add stronger flavours, or keep it clean and simple so you can really taste the fish - I think this would taste lovely with seafood caught fresh the same day.
Ingredients to feed 5 or 6 hungry people:
1 onions, finely chopped
garlic - about 2 cloves, minced
herbs - I used bay, thyme, rosemary and oregano
350ml fish stock - it's worth buying a decent fresh one if you can
dry white wine - 150ml (about a glass)
a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
On to your fish:
Really you can choose whatever you fancy but a nice meaty firm white fish (such as monkfish) is a great starting point. When I went to the fishmongers, they didn't have monkfish but cod loins were on special offer, so I chose them. Try to aim for a good mix of fish and shellfish.
approximately 400g of cod loins (cut into chunks)
2 good sized salmon steaks (any skin removed, cut into chunks)
king prawns - I'd say 250g (raw for preference)
mussels - about 125g shelled or 300g in shells (debearded and cleaned)
The fish counter also had samphire (also referred to as sea asparagus) so I bought that too - it was about 100g
Fry the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil, until they're softened, in a heavy based frying pan or saute pan.
If using the white wine, add that to the pan and let it bubble and reduce slightly, before adding the fish stock. Tie the herbs in a bundle, drop into the stock and bring it to the boil.
Reduce to a gentle simmer, then add your cubed fish - if using cod loins, add the salmon first, as the cod is more delicate. Add in the can of tomatoes (what would be really nice, but I didn't think of at the time, would be to add a few pitted black olives right about now)
Next, throw in your shellfish. I can't tell you how long it'll take to cook through, but it's quick, so keep an eye on it. Raw prawns will be pink all the way through, and mussels will be open (discard any which don't open when you tap them).
Finally, if you have some, add the samphire for the final few minutes. You'll note I haven't used any seasoning up until now, so now's the time to taste and add any sea salt or freshly ground black pepper. Of course, this all depends on what fish you've used, if you've added olives, or if you've used samphire.
Remove the herb bundle and serve up the stew with crusty fresh baguette hunks. If you are that way inclined, you could even make the bread. (I would have, if time had allowed).
So what's your favourite french dish? As part of Inntravel's campaign to promote their french holidays, I'm hosting a giveaway so, for the chance to win a £25 cafe rouge voucher please enter below and don't forget to use the hashtag #FlavourFromFrance on twitter to join in with the conversation. You can visit Inntravel by going to http://www.inntravel.co.uk
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: I was provided with a budget for the ingredients used in this post.