Friday, June 15, 2012

Simons Super Simple Irish Fish Stew

Cabbage and fish are not exactly a combo that spring to mind, but there are a couple of examples that might surprise. Chinese cuisine uses a lot of delicate fish like sea bass, carp or shrimp flavors which are steamed with pak choy.
In Ireland we do not have the great food culture of, say, Spain, Italy or France - and because of the emphasis on those we tend to copy or adapt them.
But I have often argued that we have left a lot behind - and if seeking inspiration as to how to prepare what we can produce in an innovative, attractive, simple and delicious way we really need to look North and East.

Because of our climate and our produce - or food stock - I look to Normandy with its dairy, fruits like apples and pears and its meats - pork, beef and lamb.

But where we outstrip them with our massive coastline is in the sheer availability and diversity of fish and seafood. Normandy as the name implies has a Nordic heritage - as do we - the wandering Vikings from Norway and Denmark left their mark in both Ireland and that region of France.

The inspiration for this dish is sort of Norway - New England - Newfoundland where they have a similar food stock to us here in Ireland, and a lot of cod.
Fish Chowder is a staple in the North East of the Americas, why we fill it with smoked fish here in Ireland I don't know, I find it overpowering.
In this recipe as well, I avoid using cream - I use a flour and milk mixture instead which I feel gives a better texture in a stew.

Like us, the further north you get the harder it is to grow crops, so like them we need to look at what is available both on and off the shore.

What is easy for any gardener in Ireland to grow are potatoes and cabbage.

I have developed two dishes using whitefish and cabbage.
The cabbage I used in this dish is one of my favorites - bloemendaalse gele - a very mild Dutch heritage variety, but any mild summer cabbage like Greyhound will do.

This is a very simple and hearty fish stew, a one pot meal which I love because I hate washing dishes
Any firm whitefish will do, I used some locally line caught Ling, purchased from Moycullen Seafoods who have a travelling shop.
That way if I'm not fishing myself I get locally sourced, sustainable and fresh fish.
Ling is very popular in Norway when processed into Lutefisk

Some diced bacon - I like to use a slice off a joint, but 4 rashers would do
1 onion, sliced
500ml fish or veg stock - ideally any liquid used to cook shellfish, reduced
1 large potato, cut into chunky cubes
About a third of a small cabbage - sliced into ribbons
250 grams pin boned white fish - I used ling, but any meaty firm whitefish like coley, cod, pollock or haddock are good. So are some frozen sustainable types like Alaskan pollock, but I always try to buy local
150ml milk
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
salt and white pepper to taste - be generous with the pepper with this one, it really adds to the dish - and because of the stock and bacon, go easy on the salt.

Fry bacon in a heavy based sauce pan until crisp.
Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels
Add onion to drippings and sautee until golden
Add the stock and potato, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potato is tender
In the meantime, mix the milk, chives, flour and seasoning - don't heat it, just whip well.
When the potato is just cooked, but still fairly firm, add the cabbage, and simmer 2 minutes.
Add fish and simmer until fish turns opaque.
Add the bacon and milk mixture and simmer 1 minute before serving.

It really is a simple and delicious dish.

Please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion - I really appreciate the feedback

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  1. Thanks! You have given me exactly what I need to feed a "pescatarian" friend of ours on St. Patrick's Day...

    Nick in Palm Springs


Thanks for commenting - its cool that you took the time