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Celebration Seafood Stew

A seafood stew, comprising several different types of fish, makes a delicious meal for adventurous diners. Although there's a fair amount of preparation involved, the first nine steps can be done several hours in advance, ready for last minute assembly. Serve with a bowl of steaming baby potatoes and a dish of Rouille.

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500 g (1 lb) red snapper or red mullet 12 tiger prawns
750 g (1 lb) cod or haddock fillet
250 g (8 oz) scallops
500 g (1 lb) fresh mussels
1 onion
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon saffron strands
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons brandy
2 leeks
4 celery sticks
4 garlic cloves
Pared rind of 1 small orange
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
300 ml ( pint) white wine
1 dressed crab, weighing about 180 g (6 oz)
150 ml ( pint) double cream


Serves: 6


1 Working on a sheet of newpaper, run a knife from tail to head of snapper or mullet to remove scales. Cut off heads and tails and reserve for making the stock. Make a cut along back of fish then ease the fillet away from the bone using a sharp knife and working with short, sharp strokes. Turn fish over and remove other fillet in same way. Cut fillets into large chunks.

2 Remove heads and shells from prawns leaving tails intact. Reserve trimmings.

3 Skin the cod or haddock and cut flesh into large chunks, discarding any bones. Halve scallops if large.

4 Scrub mussels, discarding any damaged or open shells. Put in a large bowl and, under cold running water, scrape off any sand or mud. Knock off any barnacles with a knife and tug off the beard. Rinse again and discard any that do not close when tapped sharply with a knife.

5 Put all the fish trimmings (except rejected mussels) in a saucepan with the onion, salt, pepper and 1.1 litre (2 pints) water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Cool slightly then strain stock.

6 Put saffron in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon boiling water and leave until needed.

7 Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan. Add snapper or mullet, cod or haddock and scallops and fry, stirring, for 1 minute. Add brandy and light with a taper. When flames die down, remove from heat.

8 Thinly slice leeks, thickly slice celery and crush garlic. Heat remaining oil in a saucepan. Add leeks, celery, garlic, orange rind, thyme and bay leaves and gently fry.

9 Make strained stock up to 1 litre (1¾ pints) with water. Add to vegetables with the wine and saffron. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer very gently for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

10 Add the fried fish and juices, crab and prawns to pan. Stir in cream, salt and pepper and bring almost to the boil. Scatter mussels over stew and cover with lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open. Remove half the mussels from their shells and gently stir into the stew. Serve hot with Rouille.

COOK'S TIP:- When making this seafood stew, you may need to alter the ingredients depending on the availability of the fish and also personal preference. Halibut and monkfish can be used instead of the cod or haddock, while small cockles can replace the mussels. Cleaned squid, cut into rings, can be used instead of the scallops. Whichever you use, don't forget that fish needs very little cooking. Over-cooking will produce disappointing results.

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