Video: How to make Catalan fish stew

Dave Cull, of Dunedin, shows how to make a Catalan fish stew, which he taught himself to make after enjoying it during a visit to Barcelona several years ago.


Dave Cull with his Catalan fish stew. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dave Cull with his Catalan fish stew. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dave Cull, the mayor of Dunedin, grew up in Invercargill but came to Dunedin to study political science at the University of Otago. He's only been here 44 years so he's almost a local, he says with a laugh.

Here, Mr Cull shows us how to make Catalan fish stew, which he taught himself to make after enjoying it during a visit to Barcelona several years ago.

You can vary the ingredients depending on what is available.

You could go down to the inlet and get some cockles, use mussels, and almost any white fish. Shrimps and prawns are a nice addition if you have them.

Don't use a rich fish like tuna or salmon but any cheap white fish will do, he says.

The original recipe comes from Food of the World - Spain by Beverly Leblanc, but he has adapted it to suit his tastes and what is available locally.


Catalan fish stew
Serves 4-6


large pinch saffron threads
4 Tbsp boiling water
4-6 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
leaves from 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 red peppers, chopped
1 can (about 400g) crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1½-3 cups fish stock
1 cup ground almonds
salt and pepper to taste
12-16 mussels, debearded and cleaned
12-16 cockles or clams, scrubbed
600g white fish fillets cut into bite-sized pieces
12-15 shrimps or prawns.


Put the saffron threads in a small bowl, add about 4 Tbsp boiling water and leave to soak.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Stir in the chopped onion, lower the heat and allow to cook slowly so it doesn't burn - this is one recipe for which you don't want caramelised onions.

Deseed the peppers and cut into small pieces. Chop the garlic finely and chop the thyme leaves. When the onion has softened, stir in the peppers, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Stir and cook slowly over gentle heat until the peppers have softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Don't let the onion brown.

When the peppers are softened, add the tomatoes. Now it goes from a sauté to a stew. Add the smoked paprika, and simmer for about five minutes. Then add some of the stock, the saffron water which is now a glorious red colour, and the ground almonds. Stir and allow to simmer and soften. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Make sure the shellfish are clean.

Remove any beards and sand and discard any that are open and don't close when tapped lightly.

Cut the fish fillets into bite-sized pieces.

When the peppers are soft, add the shellfish. Make sure there's enough stock to cover them - add more stock or some white wine or water if needed.

Simmer for 3-5 minutes until the shells have opened. Any that don't open after cooking should be discarded.

When the shells have opened, add the white fish, shrimps and/or prawns.

Cook briefly and gently until the fish is cooked. Don't let it overcook or it will be tough.

Serve immediately with fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices.


• If you don't have saffron, it doesn't matter.

• Almonds are a typical ingredient in many Spanish dishes, sweet and savoury.

• Use any white fish that holds its shape - monkfish, groper, trumpeter, or any other.

• You could add broken vermicelli to the soup before adding the shellfish for a complete meal.

• You could also serve this over rice instead of with bread.

Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.


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