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How My Life is Basically Just Like a Movie Star’s and Sicilian Fish Stew

May 24, 2011 · 15 comments

in Mains,Pescatarian,Travel

sicilian fish stew image sasasunakku

Since I live an extremely glamorous life, I recently drove to Milan with my dear friend Steffi for a spot of shopping. And by Milan I mean 40 minutes out of Milan near the birthplace of that famed cheese, the voluptuous Gorgonzola. A side-effect of being so spoilt and fancy is my inability to suffer 4-star hotels of any sort (the plush carpeting, hushed hallways, jacuzzis and obsequious staff are just too much to bear – nothing at all to do with financial constraints you understand) so we stayed with Steffi’s amusing sister who, by virtue of being married to one and having three as children, is an honorary Italian.

garlic parsley image sasasunakku

She lives the sweet life in one of those houses where most of the living seems to be done outdoors, or at least, on the verandah; both of the two meals we took there were al fresco and lovely meals they were too – perfect examples of the Italian genius for not tampering with ingredients too much.

frying garlic and parsley image sasasunakku

fish stew sauce image sasasunakkuI was rather pleased also to learn that the soup-cum-stew we were eating was made from frozen seafood. You might think such a pronouncement further proof of my madness but since I live somewhere far far from the sea, I don’t trust that the fish is particularly fresh and have heretofore avoided it.

octopus squid image sasasunakku

Struck however by the similarity of the dish to the Cacciucco that I once ate in Livorno and fondly remember as one of my top three stumbled-upon-restaurants-in-a-strange-town meals, I tried my hand at it a few times and here is the result.

fish stew image sasasunakku

Do you prefer to holiday where you know someone or are you a lone cowboy?

Sicilian Fish Stew

This is a good seafood dish for those of you who live inland and only have access to substandard or frozen fish – like me. Squid and octopus need to be cooked fast and furious (deep fried or barbequed on a very hot grill) or slow and low so don’t be horrified at what might seem like an awfully long cooking time- I was similarly worried when I first attempted this dish and stopped cooking too early to detrimental effect. I have no idea if it really is Sicilian so don’t quote me – that’s what Steffi’s sister’s husband told me!

Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly plus a clove to rub the bread

A handful of Italian parsley, minced

A sprinkle of chilli flakes

100 ml passata or good canned tomatoes you’ve passed through a mouli (foodmill)

100 ml fish stock

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

500 grams defrosted pre-cooked frozen seafood (I used a mixture of white fish, shrimps, cooked squid and baby octopus and mussels)

Slices of baguette or ciabatta, split in half or in thick slices

Heat a centimetre (1/2 an inch) of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium and add the garlic, parsley and chilli and cook for a minute or two.

Add the passata, vinegar and stock, taking care not to get burnt by spattering oil.

Bring up to a simmer then add the baby octopus in a single layer and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes turning once or twice. Add the squid, making sure it’s still all in a single layer and cook another 25 minutes. If the level of liquid looks like it’s getting low, top up a bit with water.

Meanwhile, toast the slices of bread over a gas flame or under the grill in the oven on both sides until quite toasty and rub with the clove of garlic.

Place a piece in the bottom of each bowl.

Add the fish to the sauce and simmer for two or three minutes then add the mussels and shrimps and cook for just a minute or so to heat through.

Arrange the seafood on top, and ladle over some of the sauce to serve.

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Emily May 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Now that sounds like my kinda shopping trip :-) I’m glad you had a nice time. I guess I like a mixture of holidays in places where you know people and those where you don’t because you get two different experiences. One more touristy and being able to do your own thing, the other seeing places you wouldn’t normally get to. Love your dish and the great photos; the idea of cooking octopus freaks me out so I think I’ll stick to shrimps and mussels. How long before you leave now? Take care.

Sasa May 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Only a couple of days before we go to Istanbul for 5 days and then I’m only back for 5 days before I go, I’m packing frantically but it’s so easy to procrastinate…

catty May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Man that looks delicious. i’m still craving good Italian food even though I went to Venice! I like both types of holidays, love catching up with old friends but I have to say the snoooooty part of me also loves a good posh hotel ;)

Kimberley May 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I guess there are trade-offs in life: some people are driving distance from Italy, others have access to fresh seafood. (Perhaps we should stuff our faces with fresh seafood when you’re in SF?) I’d take a stay in someone’s home over a fancy hotel any day – that meal alone justifies it.

Sasa May 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

It’s a deal, let’s stuff.

The Grubworm May 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I’m with you on the 4-star issue sister! Nothing to with cost at all. No siree. Saying that, in all seriousness, holidaying with locals of any stripe is usually a lot more fun than sitting around sipping wine in identikit four star lounges and international bars… That goes double when they’re people you know.

Good recipe, it’s why Italian food is so good, simple and not too messed around with. Like Japanese food – simple is good. Yay for simplicity. And good recipe, the cook time is good to know about too :)

Kocinera May 25, 2011 at 6:59 am

This fish stew is totally cool. Road trips to the countryside of Milan are totally cool. Super-tasty pictures of fish stew on crunchy bread are totally cool. Totally, totally cool all the way around. :D

Eva May 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

You know, I never really understood the liberal use of olive oil in Italian cooking (or whatever this technically is) until I worked at an Italian restaurant and saw how much they threw in the pan– saying the pasta has “olive oil, garlic and tomatoes” for me meant, you know, garlic and tomatoes sauteed in a bit of olive oil, not a pan full of olive oil and a couple of garlic cloves with one tomato broken up in it…and man was that pasta good. At any rate, I love octopus and calamari, so this looks right up my alley.

Sasa May 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I know what you mean because I wondered why my boyfriend’s pasta always tasted so good – then I saw him make it.

milliemirepoix May 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

So yeah, I’d drive to Milan (ish) this weekend too but to be honest, can’t really be bothered sitting in the car ;)

Kidding! So jealous you live within driving distance of Italy… but I guess that’s the upside of being on the (a!) continent, eh. This looks delicious. And I love travelling alone, but my best holiday memories have been going to visit family of friends living in other countries… most recently a friend’s grandparents’ house in the middle of nowhere, Brazil. Best home cooking ever. :D

Katie@Cozydelicious May 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm

This stew looks fantastic! I do live by the ocean, but feel so sad for folks who don;t get fresh seafood! In a stew like this, frozen sounds great, though!

Bunny Eats Design May 26, 2011 at 8:33 am

I would love to stay with someone I know, but the foodie destinations I want to go to aren’t populated with my friends. Eating with a local in many exotic countries is like culinary adventurer’s heaven. You stew looks beautiful. I sometimes use frozen seafood. If it’s fresh, it’s got to be real fresh.

Alessandra May 26, 2011 at 11:02 pm

But what did you buy? :-)

Sasa May 27, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Hehe, the important question. I found the perfect black blazer (hard for me because I have broad shoulders and a narrow waist) and some cute mustard yellow ballerinas.

Cynthia May 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

The images have me drooling and longing for some of this stew.

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