We swapped alcohol for puff a couple of years back, so we don't get hangovers anymore and I'm one of those freaks who never suffered them anyway. We do feel seedy as hell, though, sitting in a dingy carb-hole after all that Friday/Saturday off-wagon surfeiting. This is a swift and virtuous one-pot, no-fail dish that allows you to shirk doing the dishes and makes all those adult-themed weekend mistakes seem like a distant blur.
The حَسن جِدا in this (loosely) Moroccan-style stew flows from the pungent, garlic-laden savour of my home-made harissa spice paste and the hefty dose of lemon juice consigned to its tomato liquor. The flavours are bright and punchy without offering undue challenge to any already harrowed sensibilities.
The foundational vegetables make this stew both nourishing and relatively easy to digest, so it's a great relief for the bloated and liverish. We have mixed vegetable fortunes here in New Zealand; our zucchinis, onions, garlic, lemons and cauliflower are great, generally speaking; the eggplants are m'kay but our commercial maincrop tomatoes are usually shite. So while this dish might look hopelessly seasonal, we end up making it for most of the year thanks to the cheaty magic of tinned tomatoes and home-grown frozen zucchinis. I love the superior and persistent texture of the old ribbed varieties like Costata Romansesco; after four months sliced in the freezer they're still a thousand times better than the overpriced winter supermarket version. If you really can't get hold of some decent firm zucchini you could perhaps try one of the blander dry pumpkins as a replacement.
Clean flavours and distinct textures are a big part of this dish's appeal and it's important to avoid overcooking the vegetables, especially before adding the tomato and fish. You want a wee bit of bite left in the cauliflower and onion. I use frozen chickpeas that I've cooked up at home rather than the tinned jobs but if the latter is all you have, add them toward the end to prevent their disintegration.
This stew makes the most of cheaper fish species like Monkfish, Moki, Red Cod or any similar MOR white variety; Mackerel is great too. We've got Gurnard today since it was on special. It's also delicious with chunks of leftover roast lamb or mutton (add some lamb fat if you've got it), leftover meatballs or either plain or Moroccan-style sausages. Make sure you add the cooked meat at the end and allow sufficient time for it to heat through in the stew.
The recipe serves two adults. By a handful of the chopped vegetables, I mean roughly one cup, but precision isn't really important. Cube the veg into largish chunks rather than thin slices. Poach a couple of eggs in the stew in lieu of meat for a vegetarian version. You could even toss in a couple of shelled hard boiled eggs at the end for a protein hit.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 2 small-medium fillets of your preferred fish (or as many eggs as you like if vegetarian)
- Handful of chopped cauliflower
- Handful of chopped eggplant
- Handful of chickpeas
- Handful of sliced zucchini
- Half a large onion
- 1 big lemon (or a half, depending on your pref)
- Good Tablespoon Harissa paste
- Olive Oil + a bit of butter if you're inclined
- 1 400-ish gram tin of chopped tomatoes in juice.
- Salt + pepper to taste (if you must)
Another five minutes should be all you need. When you think the fish is cooked, have a wee dig into a thick piece to make sure, then take it off any residual heat and let it rest for a few minutes. You can dress it with some more olive oil at this point if you like.
Be a bit careful plating up- the chunks of fish can fall apart in an awkward manner halfway between saucepan and bowl. I don't find it needs extra salt most of the time so you might want to have a few spoonfuls before seasoning too liberally.
We have gently reheated the occasional leftover portion and the results were perfectly acceptable. Spoon it over some medium-grain rice or pearl-style couscous if you want it to go further; this amount could feed four.